Is Your Business Liable for Stolen Packages?

This is your busy season, a critical time of the year for your business. You are sending out products, and lots of them. You do your best to get everything out on time but are concerned about package woes. As Christmas approaches, you worry. Who pays if they are stolen?

It depends on a few things, but chances are good that it will not be you held liable for package loss and package theft (unless delivery is your business and you've been negligent). Here is what you can do to make that clear to your customers.

Package Policy in Theory

Make your package policy clear ahead of purchase. Place it prominently on your website, and make acknowledgment of the policy an element of the purchase if you are doing business online. Customers must show that they have read your policy and understand that you cannot be held liable for lost or stolen packages before advancing to the purchase stage.

Also, make it a point to note that packages delivered without a signature requirement are at much greater risk for theft. Packages do get stolen from people's porches and apartment entryways. To avoid that, delivery companies suggest requiring a signature.

Package Policy in Practice

The reality is that -- whatever your package policy and however clearly stated -- you will probably still get calls from angry customers if their goods don't arrive in time for Christmas, or at all. While a clearly stated package policy may protect you from liability, blaming a delivery service will not win you points with customers.

Consider what it is worth to you to replace lost or stolen packages, and whether it is even feasible to do so. You might offer replacements on an individual basis, or to particularly valued regular customers. Only you can decide how much you can afford to give to keep customers happy and generate loyalty.

Buy Extra Insurance

Consider additional insurance for the goods you ship. You might have to initially pay for products and to re-ship goods if you decide to take responsibility but can recover by making claims with your shipping company or through your business insurance. Whether that is worth doing depends on how much customer service is worth to you and what you can afford to pay to provide it.

Consult With Counsel

If you have questions about best practices or business operations, speak to a commercial lawyer. Counsel can advise you on how to try to avoid liability without sacrificing customer service.

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