Shoppers fear details are stolen as lost parcels are auctioned on eBay

Online shoppers fear their personal details could be stolen as hundreds of ‘lost’ Royal Mail and Hermes parcels are being auctioned off by mystery sellers on eBay

  • Sellers have been making up to £140 per bundle by flogging undelivered items
  • Listings have pictures of parcels but not all have removed consumer information
  • Royal Mail and Hermes said third parties get involved if a parcel is not delivered
  • Sometimes a firm abroad does not want it returned to them, so use the third firm
  • They are sold on eBay by the third company but without asking the original buyer

Online shoppers fear their personal details could be stolen as hundreds of ‘lost’ Royal Mail and Hermes parcels are being auctioned off by mystery sellers on eBay.

Sellers have been making up to £140 per bundle of undelivered items which include electrical items and jewellery.

The listings have photos of the parcels saying customer receipts have been removed ‘where possible’ and others admitting they have not been checked for details.

The systems works by a seller – often abroad – sending a parcel to a UK customer through delivery giants like Royal Mail or Hermes.

But the item does not make it to the recipient, for reasons such as they are not home or have given the wrong address.

The seller has given the delivery firm a UK-based return to sender address, which is a third-party company.

The third-party company then resells the item for the original seller on sites such as eBay.

Hermes claims it is illegal for them to redact personal data before sending it to the third-party, leaving it in the mystery companies’ hands to remove receipts and data.

Royal Mail insists it ‘advises’ firms to remove personal details and any reference to themselves – but the advice appears unheeded as listings show the firm’s logo.

Sellers have been making up to £140 per bundle of undelivered items which include electrical items and jewellery. Pictured: Sellers scribble in black ink over the personal information

The listings have snaps of the parcels, with some saying customer receipts have been removed ‘where possible’ and others admitting they have not been opened

Some images show where the seller has scrawled black pen across addresses on the packaging or torn off the labels.

But others appear to still have labels on them or even still have the addresses readable under the pen.

 The sellers’ usernames do not appear to be linked to a company, yet Royal Mail and Hermes say their return-to-sender policy means items could come from their depots.

One listing with bids up to £56 is titled ’10x bundle of lost returned mail (Royal Mail / Hermes – original packaging)’.

It is accompanied by an image of the items inside – including reading glasses, LED lights and hair extensions.

Consumer support group admin Kris Ford said she was concerned what details could still be on receipts or order information print outs that come with the items.

Royal Mail and Hermes have explained how third-party companies get their hands on the parcels

Hermes claims it is illegal for them to redact personal data before sending it to the third-party, leaving it in the mystery companies’ hands to remove receipts and data

Ms Ford, from Essex, said: ‘[The listings are] frightening to see. The fact people’s personal information can be passed over like this without any real thought is disgusting.

‘The likes of the sellers and Hermes and Royal Mail should make sure those sorts of details are removed from the parcels before they’re handed to any third party.’

Jane Dawson, from Dagenham, north London added: ‘It’s really worrying. If these items really are undelivered how do you know people’s details and invoices aren’t in there as well.

‘People aren’t consenting to have their data shared outside of the delivery service and whoever is selling them items on eBay aren’t part of the delivery service.’

Ms Dawson says delivery giants like Hermes and Royal Mail should be doing more to protect the personal information of customers.

The 35-year-old said: ‘If the sellers and the couriers are passing the parcels onto a third party to sell, that’s not what the buyer’s agreed with.

‘In the terms of sale it should say that they reserve the right to pass everything over to a third party to do whatever they want with. These companies clearly think they’re getting away with it.’

On a Facebook post discussing the listings, many were also concerned about who is selling the ‘lost’ items.

One user said: ‘Somebody needs to see if the sellers work for Hermes.’ Another said: ‘Are there any police on here to report these sellers?’

A third added: ‘If I thought it was my lost parcel I would definitely buy it back, though I know they sold that on eBay a long time ago.’

Some images show where the seller has scrawled black pen across addresses on the packaging or torn off the labels

It comes a year after comedian Joe Lycett filmed undelivered items being sold by Hermes at auction houses – with personal details still on show.

A Hermes spokesman said: ‘Some overseas retailers have a representative (clearance house) in the UK and this where Hermes collects and returns items too.

‘Hermes has no role in deciding what then happens to these returned items – they belong to the retailer – and the retailer or their representative decides on the next course of action.

‘Hermes is not involved and would not legally be able to open these parcels and remove any personal data.’

A Royal Mail spokesman said: ‘Where we have been made aware of items being sold in this way, in line with our terms and conditions, we also ask these companies to remove any customer details on the sites as well as make no reference to Royal Mail and to black out our branding.

‘These are not items that are in course of transmission by post and would not have reached eBay via Royal Mail.

‘When Royal Mail attempts to deliver items to customers and the items are undeliverable, we return these items to the Delivery Office.

The sellers’ usernames do not appear to be linked to a company, yet Royal Mail and Hermes say their return-to-sender policy means items could come from their depots

‘In some cases, the customers do not want to collect these items which can often be of low value.

‘When items are undeliverable, our policy is to return such items to the sender or retailer.

‘Certain retailers, sometimes based overseas, may not want to deal with the administrative burden of managing the returns and associated shipping costs.

‘As a result certain overseas retailers sometimes arrange for third-party service providers based in the UK to manage their returns for them.

‘These retailers will then mark these third-party firms as the return address on any packaging.

‘Once the third-party firms receive the items, they sometimes elect to sell these items by auction.

‘Where we have been made aware of items being sold in this way, we ask for these companies concerned to make no reference to Royal Mail on the sites and to black out our branding as can be seen in some of these images.’

eBay and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) declined to comment.

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