An Auckland woman has been left "horrified" after being told the New Zealand Post courier driver who misdelivered her $1000 package may be forced to cover the cost of the loss themselves.
Sue-Li Tasker Yeo contacted the Government-owned delivery service earlier this month, after she was sent confirmation her clothing parcel had been delivered when she'd yet to receive anything.
Tasker Yeo says after checking order details, a member of NZ Post's General Freight Investigations Team said her delivery had been made at about the same time as one to another address, indicating her's had mistakenly gone to the wrong place.
It was then that the NZ Post employee revealed that unless the driver could retrieve the package, they would be liable to pay for the lost package themselves should she lodge a claim.
"I was immediately horrified," Tasker Yeo told Newshub.
"My first thought was that I can't go ahead with the claim. I'm quite well off, and it reminded me how difficult it is for other people who haven't been dealt as good a hand as I have.
"I just feel terrible. I was like, 'well, I think that's $1000 down the drain'."
As yet, the package has not been recovered and Tasker Yeo is still tossing up whether to lodge a claim for compensation, or to take the financial hit herself so the driver doesn't get stung with a bill before Christmas.
She says the employee she was dealing with told her the policy had been introduced on November 1 - but E tū, the trade union that represents courier drivers, said a similar loss and damage liability policy had already been in place for at least a couple of years.
"They can deduct money from the couriers if there's a dispute over the delivery of product - you see it in a lot of contractor-type arrangements," E tū negotiations specialist Joe Gallagher told Newshub.
"If you're an employee, your boss can't just deduct wages from your account - so we're kind of against that principle where you can just unilaterally take money [from contractors]."
'They can't afford to take this hit'
Working conditions for courier drivers have come under increased scrutiny in recent years - particularly as most aren't considered full-time employees of the companies they work for, yet aren't allowed to contract for anyone else.
As they're considered business owners in their own right, many drivers also have to buy their own vans, uniforms, scanners and other equipment, as well as agree to have their vans emblazoned with their contracting company's decals.
Gallagher said the personal liability policy is another example of unfair treatment for couriers, as they don't make a lot of money and can't ride financial losses in the same way a large organisation like NZ Post can.
"Generally these couriers and other contractors can't afford to take this hit," he explained.
"They've got payments to make, and it can have a big bearing on whether they can pay their bills at the end of each month - whereas these big corporates have overdrafts and they can take a hit.
"It does make them uptight and particularly stressed when they've got all their payments to make each month and they can potentially lose some of their income."
In a statement, a NZ Post spokesperson confirmed the driver liability policy existed, but said any financial hit would be cushioned by insurance, which all its drivers were required to carry as business owners who are responsible for their own costs.
"From time to time, due to the nature of logistics, loss or damage can occur… We have different service options for different types of items of varying values. Our courier service provides cover of up to $2000 for direct loss," they told Newshub.
"If the loss is due to an error on NZ Post's part, we will cover the cost of compensation. If a contractor is found to have directly caused the loss - for example, if they delivered a parcel to an incorrect address - we do have the option to seek to recover costs from the contractor.
"It is for this reason that our contractors are required to carry their own insurance."
'Who is 'we'?'
Tasker Yeo says while it's positive the driver will only have to pay the insurance excess on the missing package should she choose to make a claim, she thinks the policy ought to be changed.
"New Zealand Post is owned by the Government, and that's not the politics we voted for," she said.
"On their website they use language like 'we will reimburse you' - but who is 'we'? It would be great to have transparency over who is insuring these packages.
"I sort of can't believe something like this happens in New Zealand. It feels very much like [the working conditions] you hear about with Amazon workers overseas."
"I hope NZ Post will be a good corporate citizen and as a state-owned enterprise, behave in a manner that allows people to pay their bills and survive month-to-month," he said.
Gallagher says E tū is currently carrying out a survey on all the courier drivers who are part of the union to determine what can be improved about their working conditions.