A call to regulate private courier companies

The problem is the almost total lack of supervision over these companies, which do more or less as they please, frequently leaving us as customers totally helpless when problems emerge.

An empty mail box is seen at the front door of a foreclosed house (photo credit: REUTERS)
An empty mail box is seen at the front door of a foreclosed house
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In an act of escapism, this week I have decided to focus on an issue concerning private companies engaged in international and domestic courier services (shipping and delivery), which many of us have been using much more frequently and intensively since March, occasionally accompanied by a good deal of frustration.
The problem is the almost total lack of supervision over these companies, which do more or less as they please, frequently leaving us as customers totally helpless when problems emerge – especially the non-arrival of parcels.
I should like to mention one particular such company: Exelot – a company registered both in Israel and Hong Kong in 2016, which deals primarily with parcels arriving from China. The company refers to itself as an “ecommerce logistics provider,” and at least according to its official registration has offices in the Ben-Gurion Airport compound, at Hativa 8 Road No 2, 03-7024442.
A frustrated customer who drove to this address a while back, after he didn’t manage to get any satisfactory answers to his complaints against the company, discovered that there are no offices at this address with the name Exelot. From my experience, no one ever answers the phone and there is neither a recorded message nor an answering machine.
Customer service does have a number where one can leave a message – 052-5413975. If one is lucky one receives a recording of the message one left by e-mail, but no reply. The one that I received after lodging a furious complaint, noted that I had called from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (I live in west Jerusalem, not far from the Knesset).
What was the problem I encountered? Two parcels I had ordered from a Chinese seller of clothing, Newchic, which uses the shipping and delivery services Exelot offers, (as do many other Chinese online stores including AliExpress and Shein), failed to be delivered, after the Exelot tracking system confirmed that the parcels had arrived at its sorting center in Israel – the first on August 5, the second on September 3. The information about the first parcel stated that the parcel had not been delivered because of a mistake in the address/phone number. And indeed, when I had put in my order I had provided my home telephone number, in addition to a valid home address and email, but not the number of my smartphone – which I was not required to provide by the seller.
It transpires that without a mobile phone number Exelot, and the delivery company it uses in Israel – Cheetah – simply do not deliver, and make no effort to locate a mobile number, even if they have a home number, an email address and an accurate home address. The seller in China is totally unaware of this practice.
When I turned to Exelot’s customer service, through its official website, after receiving replies from four different persons – including someone, who identified herself as a “customer service team leader,” I was finally informed that my first parcel had been located (that was about three weeks ago) and was requested to pay NIS 24.90 for “second delivery” to my home (there had been no first delivery). I actually received a receipt, but at the time of writing my parcel has still failed to arrive.
The second parcel was also located, and even though the tracking system does not provide any information as to why the parcel is stuck in the sorting center for over three weeks, I was informed that this parcel too requires a payment of NIS 17.90 if delivered to a pick-up point, or NIS 24.90 if delivered to my home.
No one has contacted me about the payment, and there is no further information about why my two parcels have not been delivered. The customer service people are very patient, but quite useless (at least to the present), and I gather they are currently working from home, using their smartphones, or some other device which is not a computer.
INCIDENTALLY, THE delivery company that Exelot works with is Cheetah, which is also a fine kettle of fish, to go by the number of small claims submitted to the courts against it. Its list of pick-up points is very problematic. The closest point to where I live, for example, is a grocery store behind Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where parking is difficult. Twice I received parcels there in the past, and all the parcels there are thrown into a container of sorts, in total disorder.
On the Internet I have found several chats related to problems people have had with Exelot and Cheetah that are very similar to mine, except that the goods I ordered were mostly clothing, while they ordered electronics. In the chats several people complained that their parcels arrived empty.
On August 20, a small claim was submitted to the Netanya Magistrate’s Court (claim 20513-08-20) by one Ahmed Giyossi against both Exelot and Cheetah. Last year, 20 customers sent a complaint about Exelot to the Customer Protection and Fair Trade Authority, but I have no idea what the authority did, if anything.
Now, I am not saying that no one receives the parcels sent through Exelot. I am sure that many receive their parcels safely every year. Incidentally, one always has the option of requesting a refund from the seller if one’s goods do not arrive within a reasonable time period. However, the money one receives is only for the goods – not for the shipping and delivery. In the case of my two parcels the shipping and delivery amounted to around NIS 135 (including the money I paid Exelot for “redelivery”).
In general I would say that there are several issues which the relevant authorities should address. The first is to ensure that the address a registered company provides really exists. I am sure that the managers of Exelot sit in some physical premises and not in a cloud, and that their distribution center exists somewhere, though possibly not under its own name, but that of some distribution outlet.
Secondly, there should be strict rules regarding the delivery duties of a courier, which cannot include a refusal on principal to deliver a parcel that does not carry the number of a mobile phone, especially if the customer does not know in advance that this is the requirement. Besides, not everyone owns a smartphone.
Finally I am also sure that under the 1929 Warsaw Convention, which regulates the liabilities of those who carry by air persons, luggage, or goods for reward (which Exelot mentions on its website), loss of goods after the courier has received them in the country of destination, is the exclusive responsibility of the latter – not of some anonymous force majeure.
Therefore, it should be the duty of Exelot to find misplaced parcels or pay automatic compensation to those who failed to receive their parcels, without forcing them to turn to the courts, just as the sellers provide automatic refunds when goods do not arrive. Exelot, and its likes should not be allowed to get away with shabby service practices, and live up to its promise to increase “customers’ satisfaction over deliveries issues” and provide “an optimized – quick, reliable and affordable” service.