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Released: March 05, 2013
Help Desk FAQ
Moving & Shipping
Should I use a private shipping company to send goods or gifts?
Many newcomers in the U.S. use private international shipping companies to ship goods back to their home countries. One attractive feature of these small-time shippers is that they tend to charge less than larger companies like Federal Express, UPS, or DHL. The downside is that they are at higher risk of going out of business.
When a private shipping company fails, customers may find themselves not only out the money they paid to ship the goods—they also may lose all the goods they tried to ship. For example, in 2012, dozens of customers of Transportes De León, a San Francisco company that shipped to Central America, lost both what they paid to ship their boxes, as well as the contents of the packages themselves, whose value sometimes amounted to thousands of dollars.
Government regulation of these private international shippers is minimal to nonexistent. By comparison, if delivery problems or fraud occurs via the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service can provide assistance.
You can report safety violations of shipping companies to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety Violation Hotline at 888-368-7238. (The FMCSA cannot address reliability problems with private international shipping companies.)
Be aware that international shipments are subject to customs regulations that may impose taxes and limits of the quantity and type of items that can be sent. If you have problems with delivery in the destination country, you can contact the destination country’s consulate or customs office.
To avoid problems when sending packages overseas, use companies that have been in business for years and have a track record of delivering on time. You can check a company’s reputation and record of complaints through sites such as search.bbb.org, or yelp.com.
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