Friday, August 12, 2016

Parcels and registered mail reforms - 1886

Telegraph (Brisbane) Friday 25 June 1886, page 2
Post Office Reforms
Today (May 1) several important changes will take place in the treatment of parcels and registered letters sent through the post. The Post master- General, probably recognising that in carrying; on a competitive business like the carriage of parcels he is at some disadvantage with his competitors, has raised the maximum weight of a post parcel from 7 lbs. to 11 lbs., and has abolished the wide gaps which have hitherto existed in the intermediate weights and charges.
Thus, instead of advancing by 2 lb. and threepence respectively, the advance in weight will be by single pounds, and in charge by 1 1⁄2 per lb., so that, while the charge for the first lb. will still be 3d., 2 lbs. may be sent for 41⁄2 d. instead of 6d. under the old plan, 7 lbs. will cost a shilling, as hitherto, and the charge for a parcel of the new maximum weight, 11 lb., will be 1s. 6d. The limits of size will remain unaltered, but these are held to be ample for parcels even of the higher weight proposed to be carried under the new plan. These changes alone will be of considerable public advantage, but the proposal to insure parcels up to a certain amount, and to give compensation for damage to their contents, is a measure which is certain to be highly esteemed, and which will enable the post office to compete effectually with the railway and other carrying companies, even if it be the case that the Postmaster- General will not hold himself  ‘legally liable' for loss or damage, but will only give compensation 'voluntarily, and as on act of grace.' This we take to be merely an official way of reiterating the well-known axiom that no action can be against the Postmaster- General for the loss or damage of any article passing through the post, and not as indicating any intention to dispute claims properly made and sufficiently vouched. It can hardly be objected that the terms on which compensation will be given are not fairly liberal, because a parcel may be insured up to an amount not exceeding £1 without the payment of any charge beyond the postage, provided a 'certificate of posting' is obtained at the time the parcel is handed in. For a payment of 1d. beyond the postage charge an insurance not exceeding £5 may be effected, and for a payment of 2d. beyond the postage a sum not exceeding £10 may be insured for, this being the maximum amount for which a parcel may be insured. Of course the payment of compensation is subject to reasonable conditions as to packing, and to the contents of parcels being such as may be safely sent through the post, although in certain cases whore compensation will not be given for damage by reason of the fragile or perishable nature of the contents, the loss of the parcel, or of any article contained therein, will be duly compensated for. In every case it must appear that the loss or damage did not occur wholly or in part by the fault of the sender, and that it occurred while the parcel was in the post, and the compensation given will in no case exceed the value of the article lost, or the damage sustained. The compensation given in case of damage will be in proportion to that which would have been given had the parcel been lost, so that where no extra foe has been paid, and the value of the parcel does not exceed £1, compensation will be given to the full amount of the damage. On the other hand, where the value of the parcel exceeds £1 the compensation given will bear the same proportion to £1 as the extent of the damage bears to the total value of the parcel, be that if a parcel worth £2 be damaged to the extent of one-half its value, 10s. and not £1 will be payable This, although rather puzzling at first sight, is fair enough, and is in accordance with what is known as the proportional system in ordinary insurance. In every case, either of loss or damage, the Postmaster-General will, if he thinks fit, reinstate the contents of a parcel, instead of giving pecuniary compensation; and where compensation is given, he reserves the right to retain and dispose, as he thinks fit, of the parcel in case it should subsequently come into his hands.
It can hardly be doubted that these beneficial alterations, coupled with the rapid extension of the system to the colonies and foreign countries, will largely increase the use of the Parcel Post. Already the system is in operation to the Cape and to India, including Aden and Burma, and we believe that before long Australia, or at all events Victoria, will be included amongst the colonies to which parcels may be sent from any post office within the United Kingdom.
The insurance of registered letters will be on much the same lines as that of parcels, with this important exception, that the minimum compensation where no extra fee has been paid will be £2 instead of £1. This is no doubt, due to the fact that there has hitherto been a voluntary compensation up to £2 in cases of registered letters containing money sent in the special registered letter envelope provided and sold by the department; and here it is necessary to point out that the use of the official envelope will still be a condition precedent towards obtaining compensation in the case of registered letters containing money, and that the compensation given in respect of the loss or damage of coin will not in the case of any letter exceed tho sum of £2, whatever be the amount of coin contained in such letter. As with parcels, an extra fee of 1d. will secure compensation for loss not exceeding £5, and of 2d. not exceeding £10: and if it be desired to secure compensation for damage, the letter must bear the words 'Fragile, with care,' on the face of the cover above the address. Where a registered letter is so marked, the Postmaster-General reserves the right to select for such letter a route on which letters are neither received by, nor delivered from, trains in motion, and the transit of such a letter in the post may be less rapid than the transit of other letters similarly addressed. The insurance of registered letters has long been a 'felt want,' and here, as well as in the insurance of parcels, the post office has shown a disposition to march with the times which can hardly fail to be attended with profitable results both to the public and to the revenue. Other changes which have taken place recently, and more especially the reduction in the rates of postage on letters above 12 ozs. in weight, are calculated to have a similar result; and altogether the department is to be congratulated on the adoption of an enlightened policy which would have startled those who were wont to declare that the penny post could never possibly result in anything but bankruptcy. — Spectator.