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Royal Mail Prohibited and Restricted items disposed of (On eBay!)

By Chris Dawson June 24, 2019 - 11:38 am

There is a list of Royal Mail Prohibited and restricted items which you can’t send through postal services, but what happens to banned good if you try and post them? One Royal Customer has just discovered the answer, sometimes the items end up back on eBay!

The back story is that Peter was making and selling gaming devices based on the Raspberry Pi. He then shipped one to the US but his Tiny Pi Pro device included a lithium battery and Royal Mail (and many other carriers) have banned them due to the risk of fire (no one wants a plane to crash).

Royal Mail are pretty clear in their terms and conditions that if you post banned items that they’ll be disposed of with no compensation. Indeed, if you try and post a parcel at any Post Office you’ll be asked what the contents are and if you’re a Royal Mail business customer you’ll have received terms and conditions setting out the rules.

“If you send prohibited goods or restricted goods (and you do not comply with the relevant terms and conditions), we may deal with your items as we see fit, including but not limited to, disposing of the parcels concerned (in whole or in part). Please note consequential loss cover is not available when posting any restricted items.”
– Royal Mail

Back to Peter, he’d assumed that when tracking showed his item had been disposed of that that meant destroyed. He wasn’t expecting Royal Mail to profit from selling his confiscated goods and took to twitter to express his outrage.

The reality is however, Royal Mail are in an awkward position. They have a mountain of confiscated goods each year, all containing items which shouldn’t be in the post in the first place and they have to do something with them. They can’t simply dump the lot in landfill these days (Hey, that’s a good thing!) and so the easiest thing to do is recoup some costs and make the products someone else’s problem. Generally that can include auctioning them off to the highest bidder. What happens then is down to whoever purchases the goods and they then have title to resell them if they so wish.

Of course this all leaves a bitter taste in the mouth if the original owner, who’s lost their product with no compensation, sees them being resold on eBay. It doesn’t seem fair to the casual Internet troll, but has anyone got a better solution for Royal Mail – it’s not like they can break their own rules and simply post the banned goods back to the original sender so they’re pretty much forced to get rid of them in any way that they can.

If you have any doubt as to what you can and can’t send through the mail, check the Royal Mail Prohibited and restricted items document here.

  • Ben
    5 months ago

    How are they going to post these goods once they have sold them on eBay?

    Whilst breaking Royal Mails rules is not wise surely this doesn’t pass ownership of the items to them, doesn’t this just amount to theft under the banner of contravening t&c’s?

  • 5 months ago

    The rules regarding what can be sent by air are not Royal Mails rules but the Civil Aviation Authorities – Royal Mail simply attempt to enforce the CAA rules despite the obvious contradictions from airlines – for instance you cant send perfumes yet when you go on holiday you can buy perfume on the plane – the whole area is full of contradictions and confusion

  • Jason
    5 months ago

    If RM has taken the parcels why can’t they just ship them back using a specialised service or courier since they shipping these sold items to the Ebay customers?

    I understand this may cost more but they should at least give the option for people to pay even for at a premium fee. Some items may be irreplaceable or have sentimental value.

  • Elaine
    5 months ago

    It would be better if the Post Office could “reserve the right” to dispose of the item after trying to :
    – Return the item by land to the sender (if only prohibited on onward air transport); and/or
    – Write to the sender and tell them which depot the item can be collected from, and hold it for 7 days or so.
    I think this would be much more honest of them and fairer to their customers who often have made an honest mistake.
    Of course for illegal items different action should be taken.

  • Mark
    5 months ago

    We sent a dog bark controller at a cost of £93 which has an 87 ml can of scented spray in it. We shipped it to the Orkneys and 2 weeks later the buyer was asking where it was. The tracking said they could not find the address. The lady said she had lived there for 53 years and the postman knows her well. I rang customer service who said the item was on its way back to us.
    We shipped the lady another.
    Then when it never arrived back i asked again and was told it was in Belfast and the item was prohibited in the postal system.
    It would be or had been destroyed so a £93 item was destroyed because of a £2.89 can of spray.
    I then checked what could be sent and they said a can of deoderant up to 300ml could be. So why is citronella scent any different to calvin klien. Crazy
    I asked if i sent a Rolls Royce and left a can of spray in the boot would you crush the car because of the £2 can they said yes.!!!!!!

    They then told me i could take the item to a post office counter and send as a 2nd class standard parcel and its fine. So do they put all that stuff on a cast iron special plane and our account stuff on a plane made of paper. No they are just being awkward.

    Oh and the 2nd one got there no problem thank goodness as they did not tell us why for nearly 4 weeks that it had been destroyed.

    • SamnotSam
      4 months ago

      You can indeed send aerosol products via Royal Mail, but only certain types of aerosols and packages must be correctly labelled to identify the contents.

  • 5 months ago

    Have just been in touch with RM about a parcel I sent to the USA at christmas. I had put an item deemed as contraband (small bottle of whiskey) in the parcel along with gifts a new baby for friends. I completely understand the parcel being stopped and sent to Belfast. (I had tracked the parcel) but what I a annoyed at was that when I went to track the parcel I was told it would be resent to me (minus the contraband) and to expect the parcel within a few weeks. I have since chased it twice only to be told today that my lovely presents to my friend have been disposed on on ‘Ebay’ . I am told the money raised goes to charity which is great but I googled ebay royal mail disposal to see if there was a specific section for this and I cant find one. I find this a bit dubious and wonder where the accountability is for peoples property. I was in the wrong and accept that (genuine mistake which I read up on after , should have checked) but I am somewhat concerned about the process of disposal of my gifts AFTER I had been in touch. Indeed the whole system seems somewhat clouded and unclear. It would be better if Royal Mail had its own website to post unclaimed items for sale rather than ebay which seems a bit of a tardy and unaccountable way to do things. Anyone else agree?

  • 4 months ago

    Anyone found the eBay shop for the RM then ?

  • Alan Paterson
    4 months ago

    This is a disgrace. I have had many shoe cleaners, polishes and the like “interceped” and “destroyed” by Royal Mail. If I see any of my items being sold by Royal Mail I will have something to say.

    Let me give an example. We sell a product that is in a cylindrical container. It apparently LOOKS like an aerosol in the x-ray but it is not an aerosol and should be acceptable. RM send me a letter warning letter, I get a defect on ebay and the customer doesn’t get their item due to it being “destroyed”. Its a disaster when these things happen. It damages my metrics and my profit.

    I will be astonished if I see my “destroyed” packages on ebay listed by RM. At least when Hermes loose a parcel they have genuinely lost it.

    I asked Royal Mail why they were destroying my items and falsely classing them as prohibited goods. I told them a cylindrical container is not necessarily an aerosol. Their response:

    “if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck – Royal Mail will think its a duck”

    not very helpful.

    • SamnotSam
      4 months ago

      This is a real issue and one that I try to avoid by sending products which resemble aerosols (but aren’t) via other carriers.

      At least compensation would be available if Royal Mail seized such items, but I’d much prefer that they could tell the difference between a product containing compressed gas and a product which uses pump action.

  • Jim
    4 months ago

    What about the legal and legitimate packages that are undelivered but never returned ?
    what’s RMs excuse for that??

  • SamnotSam
    4 months ago

    Royal Mail, like all carriers, have terms and conditions. If they identify that packages contain prohibited goods or incorrectly labelled restricted goods, they have a duty of care to their employees and other customers to ensure such items are removed form the postal system.

    Royal Mail are not responsible for customers who don’t bother to read the contract they’re entering into. Royal Mail are not responsible for customers who knowingly lie when declaring the contents of their package at a Post Office counter.

    I buy certain items which are disposed of by Royal Mail and some of these I resell on ebay. Those that are resold on ebay are dispatched by a suitable delivery service, with contents correctly declared (where required) and labelled according to requirements.

    Some comments have suggested that Royal Mail should return seized goods to senders. Why should they do this? Who would pay the return cost? Where would these goods be stored while awaiting a response from the sender and who would pay these unnecessary storage costs? Such an operation would require a significant number of staff – should Royal Mail also shoulder these costs on behalf of customers who couldn’t be bothered reading up on the terms and conditions of carriage?

    There are many reasons why certain items are prohibited or subject to restrictions, but many of these items can cause damage to other mail – some have the potential to cause serious injury or even fatalities.

    It’s understandable that some ebay sellers will be unaware of a carrier’s terms and conditions, but business sellers really have no excuse. Not a day goes by when I don’t ebay listings (from business sellers) offering goods that can not be sent via the stated delivery service. Some of these sellers will be well aware of what they’re doing, but are playing a numbers game. Other sellers will be oblivious to carriage restrictions, but neither group has grounds for complaint when their goods are seized and no reimbursement will be made.

    Many of these sellers are gaining an advantage over competitors, by breaking terms and conditions of carriage, and I’m firmly on the side of sellers who comply with such requirements. Ebay is filled with sellers who disregard rules and policies and I’ve no sympathy for those who get caught by their own actions.

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