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Liability of Deutsche Post for delayed deliveries

If the post office, despite an agreed delivery deadline, delivers a letter that is evidently time-sensitive too late then the post office can be liable to pay compensation for any loss that arises as a result of the delayed delivery.

In 2017, a post office customer in Bavaria wanted to assert her claim against her employer for € 20,000 for holiday, within the time stipulated and in written form, by the 30.9.2017. On Friday, 29.9.2017 she sent a letter by “express delivery with the additional service of Saturday delivery” and for this paid postage of € 23.80. However, the letter did not arrive until after the deadline had expired on 4.10.2017. The employer rejected the claim with reference to the failure to comply with the deadline as at 30.9.2017 and did not make a payment.

The customer demanded compensation from Deutsche Post. The latter merely refunded the postage and attempted to use the excuse that the term GmbH [limited company] was missing at the end of the company name of the recipient and that the letterbox had not been labelled.

The Higher Regional Court of Cologne, in its decision of 16.4.2020 (case reference: 3 U 225/19), first of all clarified that in view of the amount of postage and the agreed additional service of “Saturday delivery” it would have been obvious that, in this case, complying with the delivery deadline was particularly important. There was only this recipient at the address and the nameplate on the doorbell was labelled in exactly the same way as the letter and the company nameplate on the building, too. There had not been an inaccuracy with respect to the address. Moreover, the delivery person could at least have enquired once at the reception desk. The Higher Regional Court of Cologne was of the view that those who pay extra postage for a Saturday delivery should also be able to rely on the package being delivered on time – the delivery person has to put in some effort when making the delivery. The Post Office subsequently withdrew its appeal.

Result: Deutsche Post had to pay approx. € 18,000 in compensation for the delayed delivery of a time-sensitive letter.

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