Australia Post: Regular, Priority And Express Post Probably Don’t Mean What You Think

Australia Post: Regular, Priority And Express Post Probably Don’t Mean What You Think

Australia Post offers a variety of different postal tiers depending on your needs. It’s worth looking at the fine print of what those tiers actually mean, however, especially as “Priority” mail can be anything but a priority to Australia Post.

My thinking on this was inspired by recent postal adventures, involving a letter sent out to me from Sydney last week. I also work in Sydney, and the total travel distance, as the crow flies, would have been no more than around 15km, although I’m willing to give a little leeway for the fact that postal vans do not, to the best of my knowledge, actually fly.

To be specific, it was an envelope, mailed on Friday 17th of July. That should have given them a rough delivery timeframe of either Monday 20th or Tuesday 21st to arrive if Australia Post wasn’t doing a Saturday delivery in my area. I’ve never noticed them doing that, although it is apparently on the roadmap for this year.

The letter arrived on Thursday the 23rd, nearly a week to the day after it was posted.

Postal horror stories are nothing new, but what interested me was that this particular envelope was marked “Priority” mail. Six full days to deliver a letter marked “Priority” seemed a little slack to me, especially as Australia Post charges extra for that service.

So I did what anyone in the internet age does, and took to Twitter to whinge about it.

To which, and I was rather astounded by this, I got this response:

So, in essence, Australia Post’s answer to why a letter that cost extra to send didn’t arrive in anywhere near a reasonable time frame was that instead of spending extra to send it, the person sending it should have spent even more money.

This, it is fair to say, did not exactly make me happy.

The twitter exchange went on, with an Australia Post representative stating that “The nature of the mail stream is such that delays can occur and is the primary reason we provide estimated delivery time frames for those services rather than guaranteed time frames.”

That got me thinking about what Australia Post’s actual guarantees were, so I went and looked them up.

According to Australia Post, if you want to send a letter in Australia, you’ve essentially got three pricing tiers to consider; regular, priority and express post. All have different prices, with (not shockingly) regular post being cheaper than priority and express post being the most costly option.

But what does that money buy you when it comes to actual delivery?

Here’s what Australia Post says about its Regular and Priority mail schedules:

Priority: next business day for delivery within the same city or town. Regular: two to three business days for delivery within the same city or town.

As for Express Post, it’s intended to be as follows, as per Australia Post’s Web site:

We guarantee next business day delivery if you post your item within our Express Post network on a business day (Monday to Friday) and meet the Express Post service conditions.

However, only one of those three services is actually covered by a guarantee, and that’s Express Post. The others are rather like those pictures of Corn Flakes delicately adorned with seriously shiny looking fruit you get on cereal packets — a serving suggestion.

From Australia Post’s terms and conditions, it’s pretty easy to see that in fact, the relative differences between Regular and Priority mail, if pushed, aren’t all that much. There isn’t even a definition for what “Priority” actually means, but there is this lengthy bit on Australia Post’s liability for postal articles:

Australia Post will not

    be liable for loss or damage arising from or caused by:
  • 68.1.1 the injury, illness or death of any person;
  • 68.1.2 misdelivery including delivery otherwise than to the addressee, delayed delivery, early delivery or failure to deliver any letter or article;
  • 68.1.3 damage to the contents of an article whether concealed or otherwise, including but not limited to deterioration, contamination or evaporation of any article or thing; or
  • 68.1.4 any other loss or damage of any kind, however caused and whether direct or consequential, including, but not limited to, negligence or breach of contract by Australia Post, its employees, servants or agents, that arises in whole or in part from, or in connection with, any services provided by Australia Post.

So don’t get killed by Australia Post, in other words, because they’re not going to turn up to court.

More germane to the issue, your recompense for either a regular or priority letter is essentially limited to Australia Post’s generosity, with clauses that state that Australia Post “may in its absolute discretion” opt to refund postage or provide recompense for lost articles.

It’s pretty clear from that Twitter response that the standard is more akin to saying “Tough luck for not buying the actual premium express service”, however.

So what about Express Post? Where do your guarantees stand there?

It’s actually not that much better, because while Australia Post does trumpet its Express Post Guarantee, that’s only good for, in essence, selling yet more Australia Post services. Send an item Express Post and have it fail to appear, and Australia Post guarantees that it will “replace your envelope or satchel with the equivalent envelope or satchel.”

It is a little more generous if you’re sending an Express Post parcel, where its guarantee states that it will refund the cost of posting.

There’s nothing in there about cost of lost goods or compensation, however; Australia Post merely covers its own business processes instead.

So what’s the practical upshot if you’ve got an actually urgent letter to send?

Australia Post pretty much guarantees that if you send it Regular post it’ll get there as slowly as possible in order to bump up Priority sending rates, but Priority as a term is essentially meaningless, as there’s no recompense or regret if an article takes way longer than even regular mail.

Even with Express Post, if Australia Post stuffs up, the best you can hope for is that they’ll give you another Express Post envelope for another try.


  • So it’s completely legal for them so say “We can fuck up your shit and we are not liable for it”?

    • You agree to the terms when sending the parcel (hence the signature).

      Whenever I’ve sent something valuable, I’ve usually sent the item via a courier (Toll/DHL), they offer a bit more in the way of ‘guarantee’.

      Express Post is just regular mail for me, the postman (contractor) just leaves those ‘missed you’ slips whether I’m home or not.

      • This is why I parcel locker. One less person to screw up my delivery. Gets to the GPO, then goes in a locker.

        • Hah, well, that’s what I thought, too… had a parcel delivered there which they claimed was “a letter” (I know it wasn’t a letter, it was an exercise strap..) and had been “redirected to the postal address that you provided when you registered for the Parcel Locker service”. Unfortunately, this never arrived at that address. So… not entirely fool proof it would seem.

  • I’d be delighted if Australia Post actually delivered.
    More often than not, there is a little slip telling me I was not home and to go pick up my delivery from some-depot-that-closes-before-you-finish-work.
    Having witnessed several times the postie deliver this cardboard slip to my letterbox already filled in (as in ‘you weren’t home, so sorry’), it’s obvious that Australia Post do not give a fig about anything but bloody letters.

    Now that they are talking about only delivering on selective days, despite a surge in parcel deliveries in the last few years.
    I now use anyone other than Australia Post, because their customer ethic is shit, and their ‘tracking’ is an absolute joke. Send a parcel with tracking on it, and if it gets lost en route, not even God himself can find it.
    Compare it to NZ Post who can tell you exactly where a parcel is because, they actually track it.

    Good job on calling them out on their bullshit, Alex.

    • Oh yeah, same here. There are two people at home every day but AusPost somehow always misses them and I have to go pick up our parcels to local outlet. Every time.

      • Make sure you lodge an official complaint, auspost parcel delivery is tendered out, if they get complaints, actual lodged ones, not just whinging at the counter, then they do pull up the delivery people. If it continues, they lose their tender.

    • It’s not just Oz post that does this. Toll, DHL, Star Track… full of lazy drivers who’d rather put a card in your letterbox than ring your doorbell. As far as service industry personnel who repeatedly, consistently fail to do their god damn jobs, couriers take the cake in my experience.

      I’ve lodged complaints before, but you never actually hear what (if anything) came of it. Just that it’s been noted/action taken. For all I know, the fuckers are collecting the complaints on a scoreboard with the winner getting a free round on Friday arvo drinks.
      (Starting midday, because who the hell wants to deliver anything on a Friday afternoon?)

    • Yes I’ve alao witnessed the Australia Post courier deliver his pre filled parcel card to my mailbox even though it was obvious I was at home! Complaint? Yes I did! What happened? 1001 excuses for their hiring of an inept lazy moron! Oh and when I did get a parcel delivered onto my door step I witnessed him kicking it onto the porch from the back of his van! I actually got photo footage to prove this and obvious boot prints and indents of a perfect size 11boot plus tread!!!!!!!! Aust post couldn’t explain that one away and from then on my parcels were virtually delivered on a silk cushion and presented reverently to the door! Amazing! Shame I moved, who ever is there at that address now must think the sun shines out the proverbial of The Great Aussie Postal service!

  • Alex,
    I mailed two express post satchels last week in Metro Melbourne, one arrived the following day at its destination the second still hasn’t being logged on Australia Posts system and has being reported as missing. So express post is definitely not express.

  • Good luck getting refund from AusPost even with their guarantee.

    I was sending some medicine overseas and it was absolutely crucial for it to arrive ASAP. So I sent it with their most expensive option, Express Courier International, and paid $65 for it. It guarantees delivery within 2-4 business days to metro areas worldwide or refund. I used it before for the same destination and everything went more or less smoothly.

    This time everything went wrong. I sent it on Wednesday. Tracking showed it had actually departed Sydney on Friday night (way to go for Express). A week goes by. Tracking shows nothing else at all. Next Monday I call AusPost and they lauch enquiry about a lost package. I really have no hope at this time, but surprise – one more week later the parcel actually shows up.

    So it took around 12 business days to deliver. I am not a conflict guy and was relieved that the package was not lost as it was a quite an expensive and important item, nevermind postage. I mention this to the postman at my local outlet and she insists I contact support about refund. Yes, AusPost employee who helped me send this parcel is 100% sure I should get a refund in my case. Worth a shot, it’s $65.

    It took me more that an hour of waiting on hold to get to an actual person in support via phone. They listened to me and told me they would launch an investigation and call me back. A month goes by and I don’t hear anything from them. I couldn’t be bothered to wait for another hour on hold, so I used their online support site and lodged an enquiry mentioning my reference # from call. It took them another three weeks to get back to me. Someone called me and said “Yeah, sorry about that, but it’s not our fault, you see, it must be their customs or something, we did our job, so fuck you, no refund”. Tracking shows customs clearance at destination same day of arrival.

    I don’t even know what I expected. Almost two months to get a “fuck off” answer from support? I sure am lucky my parcel got delivered at all with that speed.

  • I posted something express and it arrived 4 days after the fact. I called up Australia post to complain and at first they were like “oh well. too bad.”
    However, before the phone call, I had done my online research and knew that they at least had to provide me with a free express bag. When i told the lady on the phone, she still refused, until i asked to speak with their manager who eventually agreed to mailing me my free express bag.
    (It took over a month for that bag to arrive :S )

  • how does this stand up to the consumer guarantees
    in essence you are paying for a service, a priority service regardless of the conditions, the wording of the service states that it is a priority service (otherwise it would be deceiving people with their wording).
    if you haven’t received a service you expected then where dooes that stand.
    Given this is a pseudo government body I would be interested to know if they don’t have to abide by the same consumer law?

    • > I would be interested to know if they don’t have to abide by the same consumer law?

      They do. The government, just because they make the laws, they aren’t above it. Aus Post is a company trading in Australia, and as such, are still obligated and required to follow the law.

  • Yep, even Express post which is suppose to be next business day guarantee is not a guarantee.
    I sent an item I sold on Ebay on the Thursday 9th July from Sydney to Melbourne CBD via express post because the buyer is going overseas the following Friday, so I wanted to make sure they get it before hand. But nope, item just got delivered this Tuesday 20th. Almost 2 full weeks to get to Melbourne and now the buyer has gone overseas without the item and asking for refund. And I think they only look for the parcel after I called and ask for an inquiry.

    Did they walk the parcel to Melbourne?
    Sigh….no wonder they’re losing money and yet charging more to use their useless service.

  • That’s why I don’t even bother with their premium offerings and just send everything regular post (and set expectations way low, accordingly). Last week I sent 2 DVDs metro Sydney to Metro Melbourne in separate envelopes for $1.40 each, which arrived in 3 days.

    Express would have been at least $10.xx for the 500g satchel.

  • I live in Adelaide.
    – sent parcel to Sydney a couple of weeks ago – 10 days to arrive
    – letter sent to me from Melb 9 days ago – still waiting
    – small parcel sent to me from Melb 4 days ago – still waiting
    – small parcel sent to me from USA 6 weeks ago – still waiting (maybe not AU Post’s fault)
    I’m thinking I live in an AU Post Bermuda Triangle area.

  • Not to mention the bullshit hoops that you need to jump through to lodge Express Post delivery failure. They basically make it difficult enough that most people will simply not bother.

  • It’s perhaps interesting to note that “Priority” was just your normal mail at the start of last year…

    Last year they changed their schedules and created “Regular” which was a cheaper and slower version of normal post, while normal post stayed the same price and became “Priority”…

    Still all awful.

  • I buy and sell on ebay and only send registered mail these days, AS constantly lose parcels and if you do not register, u have no come back They are losing thousands of parcels [er montg, One must ask where they all end up???

  • I think you guys need to complain to Australia Post, and do it often. Cause them pain such that it is easier to deliver the item than the card. Maybe I have good posties and couriers, but we have a parcel letterbox and find we get the majority of parcels delivered straight into it. DHL, Fedex, TNT and others now have permanent authority to leave forms, and they WANT to (and DO) deliver first time. Saves lots of trips to pick up parcels…

    • Looking into this myself, just wondering what’s the easiest way to get permanent authority to leave forms with those couriers?

  • At a previous house I lived at, I quite often had eParcels left in my letterbox’s magazine spot (the bigger bit for bulkier stuff) or at my front door when I wasn’t home in spite of them being clearly marked “Signature on delivery required” – I’ve also had posties come up the driveway on their bikes and throw parcels that were too big for the letterbox on to my front porch.

  • Just sent a small padded mailer (large letter) and a 3.8kg box to the same address in Oakleigh East, Victoria. Box arrived before the padded mailer…

    I’ve just discovered Mailman from Officeworks which appears to use Fastway Couriers. I sent a small 2.1kg box to Marion in SA for $13 in 4 days. Aus Post would have been $22.65 and have taken a day or two longer.

    Apart from the small inconvenience of finding an Officeworks and standing in line to purchase your sticker (as opposed to standing in line at Aus Post to purchase your sticker) you just put it in a locker for the parcel fairies to retrieve and deliver to its destination.

  • Kevin Costner did a better job delivering mail and he was only 1 man!
    We need that sort of conviction in a mail service!

  • The people who deliver the parcels are generally contractors, and not directly employed by Aus Post. They will card people all day every day, it doesn’t really have any repercussions on them. Currently they are trying to get posties on bikes to deliver “smaller” parcels, but this will just end up overworking guys that are already at the end of their tether. I think you are being a little unfair overall – i mean you give these guys 60c and your letter travels Australia wide to the person’s doorstep.
    The other things to consider are regarding the postage and addressing information at the other end. Did the mailer complete everything correctly? What date is the stamp on the letter? These are all processed by machine, and if they are not, they have to be manually sorted. If it was posted late on the 17th, it would not even be sorted until the Monday, as the pickup was missed.

    On 2 June 2014 “Regular” mail, became “Priority” mail. The current “Regular” mail, is delivered on a different timetable to priority mail.

    I’m inclined to side with the Aus Post employee. Know what you are buying, and you won’t have a problem. The part I find interesting, is that you are not even the one that sent the letter, so you couldn’t have chosen the product anyway.

    • “The people who deliver the parcels are generally contractors, and not directly employed by Aus Post. They will card people all day every day, it doesn’t really have any repercussions on them”
      And therein lies the problem. Most people don’t know or care if they are contractors, they see and AusPost van ad assume it’s AusPost employee.
      If AusPost don’t make any effort to stamp out that practise, then they deserve to be tarred with the same brush.
      Let’s not forget, there is value in getting people to go into the AusPost shops to collect their parcels – whilst they are waiting they might pickup an external hard drive or some educational toys for the grandchildren.
      This, of course, glosses over the fact that a delivery service has already been procured

      “I think you are being a little unfair overall – i mean you give these guys 60c and your letter travels Australia wide to the person’s doorstep.”
      If Alex had admitted haggling the price down to 60c, then you’d have a good point, but this is the price that Australia Post sets. If it’s not enough, then they’ll shift the price up accordingly.
      However, the price is irrelevant – you are formalising a delivery service contract with them, and it is the breach of that contract that peeves most people.
      If they doubled their price, but had a 50% increase in delivery success, there would be the initial outrage and beatups in the newspapers, but people would actually appreciate the fact their mail got delivered.
      The counter staff would probably also appreciate not having to face irate customers every day, because some lazy contractor can’t be arsed doing his job.

      • Lodge a complaint.
        If you lodge official complaints, and the problems continue, the contractor has their contract pulled.
        Complaining online never achieves much, but taking the time to lodge official complaints tends to work.

  • There’s something really disingenuous about the Express post options in my area. I live in a rural town (not super rural, but it’s considered a rural town) about an hour from Melbourne. The post office here does not tell people that this office is not an Express Post office. As such, there is no reason to pay the extra for express post.
    When you do purchase an express post package, it takes 1 day to travel 45 minutes further away from Melbourne then, the next day it is transported to Melbourne. Then it’s delivered express and goes to the destination the next day.

    In my experience, most regular mail in the area travels the same way at the same speed.

    • You don’t happen to live in Beaconsfield by any chance? Even though it’s apparently within the express post network zone.

  • To say I am dissatisfied about the non-existence of any reliable service within Australia Post is to say nothing. I am extremely angry! And I fear for my personal safety.

    After AusPost lost a few parcels, I had to give up sending unregistered mail. So when I needed to send some important documents to a government department, I bought a Registered envelope with a tracking number and priority label. I was assured it was totally secure. The promised delivery time for registered letters within Australia is 2-6 working days and 1-4 for priority. Two weeks passed, and the letter is still marked as “In transit – Processed through Australia Post facility” in the tracking system, and has been like that for the past 10 days. Clearly, the letter has been lost, or stolen by Australia Post employee or sub-contractor.

    Contacting AusPost achieved nothing. To make matters worse, I have been told by AusPost that “all enquiries about missing items must be submitted through My Support, our secure online customer support portal”. Secure?! Like my registered letter? It is not a joke anymore!

    So basically, first Australia Post steals a bunch of personal documents enough for a full-blown identity theft, and now it is forcing the customer to create some “My” account and hand over even more personal details! This is outrageous! AusPost can’t do its job, and goes out of its way to force people into using their online rubbish, so that the CEO could boast at some high function that he “brought the post to 21st century”.

    Priority labels don’t work. Tracking numbers don’t work. Registered items don’t work. Is there any super-über-mega-platinum service within Australia Post that can actually deliver a letter? Australians can no longer live their life safely knowing that their highly personal documents are falling into wrong hands.

  • Sent very important documents from Adelaide to Canberra by Express post.
    It was lodged at 9.27 am at the Post Office on Thursday and delivered next week Tuesday morning. On top of it the envelope could not be tracked, I thought it was lost.
    Contacted Post Office and was told to wait 3 days and call them again if it does not arrive.
    Make your own conclusions.

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