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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
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Legal Title of Lost Goods Disposed by a Parcel Carrier

Customer Question

A parcel carrier sold me some wind surfing kites that they had declared lost because the packaging was damaged. I advertised the kites on eBay only to find the true owner contacting me claiming ownership. I contacted the parcel carrier and got the following response: "I note the concern you have expressed about whether you have acquired legal title to the lost goods which you have purchased from us. I wish to reassure you that we have robust procedures in place to ensure that an effective transfer of legal title in goods takes place and we are comfortable that those procedures have been complied with. Our entitlement to sell lost goods is set out in statute. The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 entitles us to sell lost goods provided that reasonable steps are taken to trace or communicate with the owner of the goods in question. I am satisfied that we take all reasonable and proper steps to identify the owner of lost goods before selling them and would summarise our process as follows. Our ability to trace the owner of lost goods is limited, as usually the reason the goods are classified as lost is that the address label has become detached from the package. This means that both the sender and recipient of the goods is unknown. We will nevertheless externally examine the goods to see if their origin or destination can be identified. In addition, as the owner is most likely to contact their local depot about a missing delivery, we send a list of all lost goods to all of our depots on a daily basis. This enables the depots to quickly match packages to the correct customers when queries are received. We also place a photo and description of all lost goods on our website, which can be accessed by the depots for the same purpose. It is only if a customer has not claimed a package within 3 months through this process that we then look to sell the unclaimed goods. We believe that this is a reasonable procedure which complies with the statutory requirements. I also note that the sale of lost goods is standard in our industry and our entitlement to sell is confirmed contractually in our conditions of carriage. We are therefore comfortable that you have received good title to all lost goods received from us." Section 6 and 7 of their conditions of carriage makes reference to the disposal of lost goods: "6. Transit 1.Transit shall commence when the Carrier takes possession of the Consignment whether at the point of collection or at the Carrier’s premises. 2.Transit shall (unless otherwise previously determined) end when the Consignment is tendered at the usual place of delivery at the Consignee’s address within the customary cartage hours of the district Provided that; a. if no safe and adequate access or no adequate unloading facilities there exist then transit shall be deemed to end at the expiry of one clear day after notice in writing (or by telephone if so previously agreed in writing) of the arrival of the Consignment at the Carrier’s premises has been sent to the Consignee; and b.when for any other reason whatever a Consignment cannot be delivered or when a Consignment is held by the Carrier ‘to await order’ or ‘be kept till called for’ or upon any like instructions and such instructions are not given or the Consignment is not called for and removed within a reasonable time, then transit shall be deemed to end. 7. Undelivered or Unclaimed Consignments Where the Carrier is unable for any reason to deliver a Consignment to the Consignee or as he may order, or where by virtue of the proviso to Condition 6(2) hereof transit is deemed to be at an end, the Carrier may sell the Consignment, and payment or tender of the proceeds after deduction of all proper charges and expenses in relation thereto and of all outstanding charges in relation to the carriage and storage of the Consignment shall (without prejudice to any claim or right which the Customer may have against the Carrier otherwise arising under these Conditions) discharge the Carrier from all liability in respect of such Consignment, its carriage and storage: Provided that 1. the Carrier shall do what is reasonable to obtain the value of the Consignment; and 2. the power of sale shall not be exercised where the name and address of the sender or of the Consignee is known unless the Carrier shall have done what is reasonable in the circumstances to give notice to the sender or, if the name and address of the sender is not known, to the Consignee that the Consignment will be sold unless within the time specified in such notice, being a reasonable time in the circumstances from the giving of such notice, the Consignment is taken away or instructions are given for its disposal." Here is a link to the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1977/32 In these circumstances, who has legal title and why?

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law

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