Complaints made against Australia Post faced a nearly 70 per cent increase on the previous year as the postal service grappled with greater demand for online shopping during the COVID months, a new ombudsman report shows.
The impact of COVID-19 restrictions has meant many Australians have turned to the web for their shopping needs, putting greater strain on the country's delivery services.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman's quarterly report on the postal industry shows complaints again faced a dramatic increase during the July to September 2020 period compared with the previous year's figures.
The ombudsman received 1059 complaints during the three-month period, an increase of 69.7 per cent on 2019's numbers.
Of those complaints, 30 per cent related to delays in delivery, 27 per cent were against the quality of delivery with 24 per cent being because of lost letters or packages.
While the report includes complaints from private providers, including StarTrack, FedEx Australia, Cheque-Mates and D and D Mailing Services, 96.4 per cent of the complaints were regarding Australia Post services.
The report noted subsequent lockdowns related to COVID-19, particularly in Victoria, resulted in further delays and stoppages.
"A sustained COVID-19 induced shift in consumer behaviour, from bricks and mortar shopping to online, has continued high demand for delivery services," the report said.
"We have identified that this increase is a result of COVID-19 affecting vital Australia Post distribution facilities in Victoria, as that state managed a second wave of infection, and a result of continuing delays and stoppages of international postal services."
One case study the ombudsman noted was regarding a delivery of a used smartphone, phone case and earphones worth $1000.
Once the parcel arrived, it was allegedly found to be damaged and missing the smartphone and earphones. Australia Post offered compensation up to the amount of $100 but once the complainant took it to the ombudsman, it was found he was eligible for a full compensation of the item's valued worth.
Another case study referred to a woman sending medication via the priority service to her terminally ill father from Melbourne to South Australia. It did not arrive within the advertised timeframe.
After the woman brought the case to the ombudsman's attention, it contacted Australia Post who managed to track the parcel down and deliver it.
The ombudsman said it had finalised 98 per cent of the complaints received with nearly half being resolved with an assisted referral and about a third resulting in an explanation being provided.
Around 2 per cent of the cases complainants brought forward resulted in a formal investigation.
The ombudsman noted that it was continuing to monitor the situation, especially as COVID-19 continued its impact, but said it had seen anecdotal acceptance and understanding from complainants about the pressures the postal industry was facing.
"The [ombudsman] is monitoring the issue of regulatory relief as we have seen an increase in complaints relating to Australia Post's service standards, particularly delays in delivery," the report read.
"However, anecdotal opinion from the complainants contacting the [ombudsman] suggest that there is a broad understanding and some acceptance, of the challenges Australia Post is facing due to COVID-19."