March 10, 2017 by Andrew Minalto - 10 Comments

SHOCKING – Package Seized and Destroyed by Royal Mail!

Hello and welcome back to another Friday and another Reader’s Question post!

Today I’m going to be looking at an email I received from Affan, who had his Royal Mail delivery seized and destroyed for breaching dangerous goods transport regulations, which in this case meant the package contained batteries.

Here’s the email I received:

Hello Andrew,

I have a problem and I wanted to request some guidance from you. I have recently started selling phone batteries and received an email from Royal Mail (the only shipping company I use) that I have attached for you to see.

Previously I thought that sending batteries was only prohibited internationally but I’m now assuming that Royal Mail doesn’t carry them domestically either? Do you know anything about this issue Andrew? What are my options and are there any alternate shipping options for domestic as well as EU sales?

Many thanks and best wishes,

Affan

And here is a screenshot of the letter so that you can see exactly what Royal Mail sent to Affan:

For those of you that can’t be bothered to read the letter in full (I know I know, it’s Friday after all!) here are the most important snippets from the final paragraph:

“Having opened your parcel and examined the goods more closely, we determined that the items contained within it did breach dangerous goods transport regulations. We have therefore disposed of your parcel accordingly.”

Now, first things first – by now I assume and hope that all online sellers are aware of the dangers involved when posting batteries, which are prone to shorting, overheating and potentially catching fire… it’s something that’s received a lot of media attention over recent years and in 2013 regulations were put into place to control the shipment of batteries.

However this was mainly aimed at international air shipments but since then further rules have been introduced by the International Air Transport Association, or IATA for short, with their Dangerous Goods Regulations, which regulates the shipment and transport of “dangerous goods” (pretty obvious really!).

So what does this mean for shipping batteries within the UK?

Well it depends, but in answer to Affan’s question – unfortunately sending standalone batteries, as he is, is in fact prohibited by Royal Mail.

This is taken from the Royal Mail website itself:

“Batteries that are classed as dangerous goods by the latest edition of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Technical Instructions are prohibited. This includes wet spillable lead acid/lead alkaline batteries (such as car batteries), used alkaline metal, nickel metal hydride (NiMH), nickel cadmium (NiCd), zinc-air batteries, and damaged batteries of any type. Lithium ion/polymer/metal/alloy batteries when not sent with, or contained in/connected to an electronic device, are prohibited. Lithium ion/polymer/metal/alloy batteries are allowed when sent with or contained in/connected to an electronic device, but are subject to packaging, volume and quantity restrictions.”

So I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad new Affan, but sadly you can’t send batteries by themselves with Royal Mail.

Now if you’re selling an electronic device that contains a battery, then that’s a whole other story and you CAN post them. There are some additional rules and requirements, which I’ll go through now:

  • Each package must contain no more than 4 cells or 2 batteries contained in equipment.
  • The maximum net quantity of cells or batteries contained in one package is 5kg.
  • The watt-hour rating must not exceed 20Wh per cell or 100Wh per battery.
  • Each cell and battery must be of a type proven to meet the requirements of each test in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, section 38.3.
  • Cells and batteries must be manufactured under a quality management programme as specified in the ICAO’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.
  • Cells or batteries that are defective or broken are forbidden.
  • Cells and batteries must be protected against short-circuit.
  • The equipment containing cells or batteries must be packed in strong rigid packaging and must be secured against movement within the outer packaging.
  • The sender’s name and return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.

I know on first reading this seems like a long list and a lot of hassle but there’s really nothing to it. I mean as long as you’re selling normal consumer electronics (phones, tablets, cameras etc.) then it’s really only the last three points that you have to be concerned with…

Make sure the device is off and can’t be accidentally switched on during shipping, and that it’s securely and firmly pacakged and finally that your name and a return shipping address are listed.

And that’s it! It’s really very easy.

One important point – when they ask you what your package contains at the post office, don’t lie! Just tell them it’s an electronic device that contains a battery and then simply state that the device is off and cannot be activated.

The only other point I want to mention is that you can’t get around these requirements by using couriers as they’re subject to the same rules and regulations that Royal Mail are. Standalone batteries are still classified as dangerous goods and are prohibited, and lithium-ion batteries contained within a device can be shipped, but you’re normally required to fill in a few extra forms and affix a few extra labels.

And there you have it. Nothing much more I can say about this topic…

I hope this has answered your question Affan, even if it’s not good news, and I hope that this post has helped others as well.

If you want your question answered by me, and possibly featured in it’s own Reader’s Question post, then please get in touch with me via my help desk here and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours, Monday – Friday. And even if I don’t select your question for one of these posts, you’ll still receive a reply from me. So what is there to lose?

Have a great weekend everyone.

All the best,
Andrew

10 Comments
Click Here to Leave a Comment

  1. Well, I’ve just had the same experience as described in this blog-post. Amazon UK asked me to return my XBox Plug And Charge Kit back via Royal Mail, which I did. I even included all the relevant info, on the outside of the box, and double-checked with the Post Office staff, who told me that “Yes”, I could send this item back to them.

    14 days later, and I get the same letter as Affan received, and Royal Mail are telling me the item is dangerous. Yet, I have had packets of Duracell Batteries sent from Amazon, and Amazon Sellers, via Royal Mail many times over the years, and on occasion returned such batteries too, via Royal Mail, all without any complaint or hitch.

    If a battery is dangerous, it’s dangerous, is it not? How can it NOT be dangerous to send 10 or a dozen batteries in a thin packet of cardboard, yet it IS dangerous to send just one or two batteries, surrounded by plastic, cardboard and an outer packaging as well?

    And – more to the point – if companies can send batteries or items containing these allegedly explosive batteries out to customers, but customers cannot return them, then this is double-standards, is it not?!

    Ultimately, if these items cannot be sent via any UK postal or courier company, because they are dangerous, then surely these same items should not be purchasable in the UK. How can 500 x packets of 4xAA batteries being shipped within the UK, for a supermarket be okay, but I cannot send one packet of AA batteries back, because it’s “dangerous”?!

  2. Emrah Yalpur

    Hey, Andrew,

    Thanks for another great post!

    I’m currently selling in Australia and want to start selling my products on eBay UK which contain a lithium-ion battery within the device that can’t be taken out.

    Am I going to have issues sending this to customers in the UK?

    It’s CE certified which i think is the European certification. But here in Australia at our postal office they don’t ask me these things, just require me to fill in a customs declaration for international post.

    Is there anything I need to do from here before posting to the UK?

    Thanks!

    Emrah.Y

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Emrah,

      Did you read the article?

      It precisely describes what is allowed and what is not allowed.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  3. Andrew, thanks for the RM link, but my question was if you know how Ebay sellers post perfumes overseas if these items are classed as prohibited/forbidden.

    Thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      They simply ignore the rules!

  4. Hi Andrew,
    Last year I wanted to send a pack of 4 small gas canisters used for camping stoves. However I had that exact problem no matter what courier company I used they all had the same rules. What I want to know is, how do others send them? There are loads of listings on eBay! Does this mean the sellers are sending these items illegally so to speak?
    Thanks for the great blog and advice
    Many thanks

    1. Darren Grant

      The answer is sadly that those sellers are ignoring the rules. I have tried it for myself ordering Lithium batteries of eBay sellers and they arrive in the post.

      The situation is ridiculous because RoyalMail class small 3V lithium coin cells as dangerous goods and prohibit sending them. While there is justification for considering high power lithium batteries such as laptop batteries as dangerous the energy in a small lithium coin cell is insufficient to be considered dangerous. RoyalMail are the only ones that will not take coin cells, other carriers have no problem with them.

      1. Andrew Minalto

        Yes, that is unfortunately correct.

        Many sellers just ignore these rules and smuggle such shipments into postal system without properly declaring what’s in them.

        1. Hi Andrew
          What about perfumes? I have recently had a letter from RM saying that sending perfumes overseas (Rep of Ireland) is against the rules. The perfume was a bottle of 200ml brand new item, retail sealed and safely packed in bubble wrap.
          I’ve seen other sellers on Ebay selling the same perfume and they do send it overseas, although most of them wouldn’t ship to Ireland.
          Do you know what is the reason??
          Thank you

          1. Andrew Minalto

            You can get more info/details on perfume sending restrictions here:

            https://business.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/898/~/restricted-goods—uk

Leave a Reply