WA Issues with US-Based Freight Forwarder - Australian Consumer Law?

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29 October 2016

I've been regularly using a US-based consolidation/freight forwarding company to ship items from the USA to Australia (Shipito). Sometimes, this is to save on shipping costs, other times it is to enable me to receive items from shops that won't ship to Australia.

I buy a lot of expensive, modern board games and have them shipped. A couple of batches ago, I didn't feel like they were packed very well and I complained, only to be told (reasonably enough, I had to admit) that their site offers extra bubble wrap and some other protective features and that the damage was my fault.

Now, I didn't make the same mistake twice. I had my most recent batch of games consolidated and selected two of the special services advertised on their website.

Extra bubble wrap and padding to minimise the risk of damage and a fragile sticker to make it clear there are fragile items inside (I'm not quoting exactly, but this is more or less how these options are described on their website). I also selected the more expensive, four day DHL shipping with insurance against damage.

I was pretty upset when my items arrived poorly packed, with no extra bubble wrap and padding (or any at all) and no fragile sticker. As a result, my board games had slid around during transit and two of the boxes were badly damaged. One has a very crushed corner and the other (the more expensive one that retails for close to $100USD) split open along the top edge and the inside part of the box split down one side and was generally battered and damaged.

When I complained, the manager apologised profusely for the lack of my extra features and urged me to "file an insurance claim".

So I took photos and filed my claim.

The next day, I received a rejection message: Retail packaging is not covered by insurance.

I emailed them back explaining that a board game box was part of the item, not retail packaging. It's like the case of a violin -- used for storage, display if you're a collector, and is often a component to be used in the actual game. It's not designed to be torn off and thrown out.

The retail packaging of a board game is the plastic shrink wrap that it comes encased in. I also explained that this damage only happened because the two extra services that I paid for had not been provided, so why was it even DHL's insurance's responsibility? Shouldn't Shipito pay for my damage?

The next day, despite assurances from the guy I contacted on their online text chat that he had "escalated my complaint to a supervisor", I received a one-line email "Claim rejected: retail packaging not covered for damage".

So I sent another email that wasn't as verbose as my previous one, restating my issue, this time conveying my incredulity that I hadn't even been offered as much as a refund for the extra two services that they admitted I didn't receive (bubble wrap and fragile sticker).

The next day, a very similar email about not covering retail packaging.

Undeterred, I emailed again, marking my email ATTN to the manager in California who had seemed so helpful a few days previously.

I haven't had a reply since then.


Now, my question is:

Am I protected in any way by Australian Consumer Law here? These people are providing a service to Australians. Yes, the product was not purchased from them, but I would not have paid for their $175USD shipping if I had known that the sticker and bubble wrap were going to be forgotten because the last time I used them without the extra precautions my games were a bit roughed up.

This time, I followed their own solution for this problem, tried to buy extra padding, and two of my game boxes were trashed.


As i understand it the Australian Consumer Law applies to purchases of goods and services from both Australian and overseas online sites, however its much harder (if not impossible) to enforce your rights outside of Australia. I would contact the US Federal Trade Commission and let them know about the situation. They may be more of a direct threat to the company, and may be able to help you out more than Australian Law.