Parcel Delivery in France

What can you do if you have a parcel delivery problem in France? We take you through the main legal framework. Whether it is late delivery or damaged goods, at this time of year problems with parcel delivery can be expected to be at their peak. Last year around 40% of all complaints to the trading standards officials in France were about distance buying, whether mail order, or buying over the internet. Problems concerning the delivery of these goods accounted for 31% of the complaints. The French La Poste delivers parcels via their Colisimmo or Chronopost services, but there are also private parcel delivery services in the market. There are no comparative statistics on the reliability of any of these different services.

Late Delivery

The most common problem encountered by those ordering at distance in France is late delivery of the goods. This is not surprising, as the whole process introduces into the transaction a third party – the delivery company. Some strengthening of consumer protection was made last year, with a new law that requires suppliers to notify the buyer of the latest date for delivery of the item. This information must be provided to them before the order is placed and confirmed. Accordingly, a supplier cannot get away with laconic assurances that delivery will be in ‘three weeks’. They are required to give a precise latest date for delivery, eg 23rd December 2008. In the event that delivery does not occur within 7 days of this date, then you are entitled to cancel your order and obtain full reimbursement. You have 60 days within which you are able to cancel the order. Make sure the letter is sent by recorded delivery. If you still want to receive the parcel, then you need to send a recorded delivery letter to the supplier, giving them formal notice, called an injonction de faire, which obliges the supplier to act, on pain of which you can bring a legal action and obtain damages.

Lost Parcel

There are no statistics publicly available on the number of parcels that get ‘lost’ each year in the French postal sytem. However, a French consumer association report earlier this year estimated that the number of lost parcels in the State postal system was probably around 1.5m, out of a total of 263 million posted each year. This figure was vehemently denied by La Poste, and mail order companies who were canvassed expressed their satisfaction with the quality of the service they received. All private delivery companies (TNT, DHL, UPS etc) offer an acknowledgement of receipt, and the same applies to the Chronopost delivery service run by La Poste. Their Colissimo service also offers acknowledgment of receipt, but at an additional cost. Anecdotal reports of signatures having been falsified by postal workers do appear from time to time, so even this system is not fulproof. If the supplier advises you they have posted the parcel, but it appears to have gone missing, then this does not exonerate them from their responsibility. The fact that the parcel may have been lost by the delivery company is of no concern of the buyer. The same rule applies in relation to parcels sent through the French post office. Even a strike by postal workers does not exonerate the supplier from their responsibility. They retain total responsibility until safe delivery to you. If you complain about non-receipt of the parcel, then the supplier is either obliged to prove it has been delivered to you (signed receipt), or to send you replacement goods. However, they are entitled to make their own enquiries before they do so, a process that may take several weeks. In such circumstances, you may simply want to cancel your order and seek a full refund.

Parcels at La Poste

If the postman advises you that a parcel awaits your collection at the post office (by a notice called a avis de passage), then you have 14 days in which to collect it. If you fail to collect within this timescale then La Poste will send the parcel back to the supplier. You need to be careful here, as this does not signal non-delivery of the item and grants you no automatic right to cancel the order. You need to make contact with the supplier, who is likely to impose an additional delivery charge.

Damaged Goods

If the goods arrive, but have been damaged during transportation, you need to act quickly. You have three days (Sundays and public holidays excluded) in which to send a recorded delivery letter of complaint to the delivery company. You should also copy the letter into the supplier. You would be well advised to provide photographic supporting evidence. An even better idea, particularly if you have the slightest doubt, is to examine the parcel before the delivery lorry departs. If it is damaged, then refuse to accept delivery, and indicate your refusal on the reception ticket (bon) that you will be requested to sign.


The supplier has 30 days in which to reimburse you following your claim, after which you can claim interest on the outstanding sum, although you would probably need to go to court to enforce it. The level of the reimbursement includes the delivery charge paid, but does not include the cost of sending the product back to the seller, which is at the cost of the buyer. The seller cannot oblige you to accept a credit for other goods with the company. You have the right to a cash refund. You can read more about parcel delivery services in France, in our Guide to French Postal Services.

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