Australian Post’s new letter delivery timeframes: At what point will documents be “Served”?

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Business owners should be aware of Australia Post’s altered terms of their letter delivery service which now means regular post will take up to 2 business days longer than priority post.

The update:

Australia Post now has three streams of standard letter delivery, which came into effect on 1 January 2016.

  1.   Express Post: next business day guaranteed.
  2.   Priority Post: 1 – 4 business days.
  3.   Regular Post: Up to 6 business days.

This is set out in greater detail on the Australia Post website here.

For regular postal delivery, the estimated timeframe is now 2 days slower than the priority post stream. These estimations will vary depending upon the destination and origin of the mail.

The ACCC approved these changes in the wake of the falling demand for mail service given the shift to digital communications, which resulted in Australia Post’s mail division reporting a 381 million loss last year.

Deemed service and actual delivery

The changes to the postal delivery timeframes for the respective streams of post will impact upon the deemed service of documents under statute, and theactual delivery of documents.

Pursuant to section 75 of the Interpretation Act 1984 (WA), service of documents is said to be effected at the time when the letter would have been delivered in the “ordinary course of post”. What now constitutes the “ordinary course of post” will vary depending upon the stream of post used, as well as the origin and destination of the mail.

When determining the actual date of the service of documents, this variance will need to be taken into account and evidence adduced as to what the “ordinary course of post” constitutes in light of the origin and destination of mail in a particular case.

How these changes may impact you:

Despite the prominence of electronic communications in businesses today, it is important to note these changes for a number of reasons.

Not all mail can be sent electronically, and certain documents are still required by law to be sent by post, for example: ordinary service of documents.

Further, there are many critical timeframes that must be complied within the course of business, such as providing 21 days’ notice for general meetings, completing contracts and deeds, or providing responses to any notices that have been issued. Similarly strict deadlines must also be adhered to in the course of any legal proceedings commenced.

Steps to safeguard your business against any discrepancies:

It is critical that businesses are clear upon the method of post being used, and the new estimated timeframes of delivery, to ensure important dates and deadlines are complied with and to minimise any disputes that may arise because of this. Useful tips include:

  • Having robust mailing processes and procedures in place to ensure there is a clear record of the mail procedures used i.e. the means of mail (whether priority, regular or express and evidence of same), the date sent, and any electronic or other method of delivery used.
  • In certain circumstances using alternative means of delivery in addition to mailing letters by post i.e. via email or fax.
  • Corporations may wish to adopt electronic voting procedures if they have not already done so (such as corpvote).
  • Using registered or express post which can be better verified and tracked when posting important documents or those with tighter deadlines.
  • Ensuring the addresses and contact details of recipients are up to date.
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