Thefts from private letterboxes multiply in France

Videos of this type of theft have become increasingly common on social media

A view of a building’s locked letterboxes
People are reporting increasing thefts from letterboxes in France
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Residents in France are increasingly reporting thefts from letterboxes, prompting delivery companies to advise people to use third-party lock-up boxes and to have deliveries to shops as they are more secure.

Opening and stealing from someone else’s letterbox risks a fine of up to €45,000 and three years in jail.

However more people are now reporting thefts. Thieves are reportedly able to buy ‘master keys’ - similar to those used by postal workers and delivery staff - online easily.

The problem often increases in the run-up to Christmas as more parcels are sent.

One resident, Laura, told France 3 that she discovered someone stealing from her building’s letterboxes when she left her apartment in Fronton (Haute-Garonne, Occitanie) to visit the supermarket at around 17:20 on October 30.

She said: “I was cooking but I didn’t have any salt. [I saw him] and he wasn’t dressed like a delivery person.”

The man saw her coming downstairs, and pretended to smoke. He then went to the supermarket next door, and pretended to shop, before returning to the building.

When Laura returned to the building, she found the man putting back a parcel into a mailbox, and opening several other letterboxes to see what was inside. She said: “I asked him ‘How come your key opens all the boxes?’, and he said: ‘We all need money’.”

She later said he promised not to return, but before leaving, he told her: “Do you know why I'm doing this? To eat. And if people make a complaint, they get their money back.”

Laura posted the video she took on TikTok, and reported the man to her building’s concierge. A postal worker later asked Laura to send her the video, so they could recognise the man if he returned.

Videos of this type of theft have become increasingly common on social media.

Another resident and housing union president, Annabelle Vurlod, in Paris, told TF1 that CCTV footage from her building’s entrance hall clearly showed someone stealing parcels. She said: “Over the past two weeks it’s the same person who comes in, despite people lodging complaints.

“The police do nothing, because there are a huge number of cases.”

Postal group La Poste has said that it is compiling a list of all the complaints “lodged by our customers and/or those of building associations with the authorities”.

It added that “La Poste is at their disposal to support their complaints”.

Can I get a refund if my post is stolen?

Image: Sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock

If you suspect that a package has been stolen, you can report it to the company which sent it.

Article L. 221-15 of the Code de la consommation (consumer code) states that the firm is responsible for the safe delivery of your item, whether or not they manage the delivery themselves or outsource it to a third party company.

If your parcel is lost you must raise it with the sender, and it is their responsibility to sort out the problem. They may choose to investigate the problem with the delivery company but they cannot simply blame the third party and deny any responsibility to you.

For example they may choose to refund you, or send another item at no extra cost.

People are advised to send parcels to pick-up shops and lock-up boxes - for example those found in stores such as Fnac, or shops with the ‘Relais Colis’ logo (see the image above) - instead of sending direct to their home. These lock-up boxes are often in more populated places, have digital opening methods and are therefore more secure.

This delivery option is often listed as ‘retrait magasin’ on online shops.

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