Emergency situation surcharge

In the case of courier services, an “emergency” means reduction of the supply chain capacity. Simply put, some form of transport suddenly becomes not readily available, which results in price rises. Recently, customers may have experienced such changes in connection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic, the cause of COVID-19.

Emergency surcharges are being applied mainly to air shipments. This is nothing unusual: cargo areas in air transport are the smallest, most rigorously regulated and most expensive.

You pay for the decrease in the “supply of available cargo space”

Why is there a surcharge in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic? The message from DHL explains: Given the significant impacts of COVID-19 on the global aviation industry and in order to help us maintain reliable and high quality delivery services for you and your customers, DHL Express introduced a temporary Emergency Situation Surcharge in early April.

Since the onset of this global pandemic, DHL teams have been working around the clock, adapting and adjusting the operations of our global network to align with new developments, regulatory requirements and constant changes in capacity and demand.

Translated from official language into an understandable one, it means that due to the tightening of sanitary regulations, there are significantly fewer commercial flights, which obviously results in higher prices. Someone has to cover the difference. However, it turns out that the courier companies are adapting their charges to the changing situation: As market conditions continue to evolve with the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the Emergency Situation Surcharge was adjusted downwards effective July 1, 2020.

This adjustment reflects changes in market dynamics and air capacity availability. 

Their actions are quite obvious and completely understandable in business terms. The surcharges are not high, and are applied not to the parcel, but to each kilogram of shipped weight. This is important because you do not pay an arbitrarily imposed fixed rate, but a surcharge calculated on the basis of a weight converter, which makes them fully transparent.

Christmas reduces the tolerance level of couriers

It is said that Christmas is a time of love and peace, when most disputes are resolved, and people are more tolerant than usual. This rule does not apply to courier companies – on the contrary: Christmas and New Year festive seasons are times when couriers are less forgiving of customers’ mistakes. This means that if your shipment is bigger and heavier than declared, you will pay extra for sure.

As an example illustrating this, UPS applied 2019 Holiday Peak surcharge changes (applicable from November 4, 2019 to January 10, 2020). The American giant implemented, in European countries only, a surcharge strategy which rewarded compliance with the rules of posting parcels as well as  precise measurement and weighing of parcels. UPS applied the following surcharges: a large package, over maximum limit and extra handling surcharge. A large package was defined as a shipment within the allowable dimensions but close to their upper values. An over maximum limit item is a package exceeding the standard dimensions. Additional handling covers a much wider range of items: it applies to cylindrical-like items (e.g. barrels without rectangular packaging), defective packages or packages not meeting certain criteria. To resolve any doubts, please note the following : UPS also reserves the right to assess the Additional Handling Charge for any package that, at UPS’s sole discretion, requires special handling.

The reason courier companies are less tolerant of errors during some periods and they impose emergency situation surcharges is the same: it’s a way to compensate themselves for rising freight charges. The difference is that during the holidays they do not result from low supply, but from the rapidly growing demand.

“COVID-19” scam

It turns out that the pandemic may be beneficial for scammers and cybercriminals who use it to illegally collect their own “extra charge for emergencies”. Courier companies warn against clicking on the links sent along with the message pretending to be from a legitimate company about the necessary surcharge for disinfecting the parcel. They play on your anxiety, threatening that your parcel will not be delivered unless it is disinfected which will cost only few dollars. If you click the link in the message, you enter a fictitious website to make your payment with the option of logging in to your banking system. What happens next is obvious – the scammers get your data and use it to steal money from your bank account.  So watch out for scammers – a pandemic means not only the threat of getting infected, but also being tricked.