“Ridiculous”: Small business angered by Australia Post’s parcel fee system

Australia-Post

Sylvia Vanderhorst (centre), owner of Craftee Cottage in Melbourne.Source: supplied.

A Melbourne-based small business owner says she’s being charged up to double the amount of fees to send parcels via MyPost Business, after Australia Post adopted a new automated measuring system.

Australia Post updated its postage rates in September, including the rates by cubic weight for businesses using their own packaging, and about two months later, it began using its automatic processing machines not only to scan for size and weight, but also to determine if a business has underpaid postage.

For Sylvia Vanderhorst, owner of Craftee Cottage in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh, the changes have resulted in the shipping cost of some of her parcels increasing from $12 to $22.

Vanderhorst says while some of these higher prices appear in Australia Post’s e-calculator that is linked to her online store, other changes are only detected after the customer has paid and the product has been sent for delivery.

“The one that I’m fighting at the moment is $18 that Australia Post has charged us extra, on one parcel, and we haven’t charged the customer,” Vanderhorst tells SmartCompany.

Vanderhorst says that customer bought a range of wool products online and paid the postage fee generated by Australia Post’s calculator at the checkout.

At its processing facility, however, Australia Post revised the postage fee, adding the additional amount, which the business now has to pay for the delivery to be sent.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Vanderhorst says.

Established 35 years ago, Craftee Cottage sells wool and craft supplies from its brick-and-mortar shop in Melbourne’s south-east and online store as well as running classes.

The business, which employs four staff, sends light, but bulky, parcels of wool Australia-wide and to some international customers, with about 130 deliveries sent out weekly in peak periods.

Vanderhorst says she started receiving regular emails and alerts in her MyPost Business portal last month about underpaid parcel fees that will be added to her monthly bill.

“We’re getting them every few days, and actually I’ve just sent three complaints today because [Australia Post] is not even getting our information correct,” she says.

An Australia Post spokesperson confirmed to SmartCompany the automated system was adopted in early November, but the public enterprise has since paused charging customers for underpaid postage.

“We have paused charging for the difference for this automated process until the New Year to help customers focus on the busy peak period,” the spokesperson said.

Australia Post continues to stand by the accuracy of the processing machines, with the spokesperson saying equipment “has been certified and validated by an independent body to ensure we are charging our customers accurately”.

“It’s not possible”

For Anne and Stephen Westby, co-owners of the Noosaville-based Wooden Letters Australia, the most frustrating part of the new system is the difficulty they’ve had disputing the delivery fees.

The Westbys established Wooden Letters Australia seven years ago, selling hand-crafted wooden and vinyl signs of all types, from letters to table numbers and decorations.

The business uses Australia Post to send fragile products in custom-made boxes, so the owners know the exact dimensions of their parcels.

“We get these boxes professionally made in a place in Sydney so we know exactly what’s in them,” Anne Westby tells SmartCompany.

“We’ve got underpaid postage charges on these boxes and I know it’s not possible,” she adds.

Anne says she has five pending enquiries related to these boxes but has given up opening them because Australia Post’s staff aren’t responding to her.

“You’ve got two weeks to pay the underpaid postage and if you don’t pay, they will cut you out of your login so you can’t issue labels,” she says.

“It’s so morally wrong the way they are treating small businesses at the moment,” she adds.

An Australia Post spokesperson said the mail carrier takes customer enquiries very seriously, and normally provides a first response within 48 hours.

The spokesperson added that the public postal service is experiencing higher than average volumes due to COVID-19 and the Christmas period, saying “we are working hard to ensure customers’ queries are resolved in a timely manner”.

According to Australia Post, online shopping in November beat last year’s record by 13%, and jumped 76% on 2019’s figures, making it the biggest month in Australian online shopping history.

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