I thank the Minister of State for his attendance. I had tabled this matter last week and, as happens with some Topical Issues, time moved on and it became a little less topical. However, over the last two weeks I had queries from a number of constituents around the same time. I am sure the Minister of State has anticipated the arrival of parcels from loved ones abroad over the years and especially during the Covid pandemic. I think of our emigrants in countries such as Canada, Australia and the United States who have not been able to return home to Ireland and who have not been able to visit parents, see grandchildren or meet uncles, aunts or cousins. The next best option for them to show their love, aside from Zoom calls and telephone calls, is to send a gift, parcel or goody to mark a particular occasion, whether it is an anniversary or a birthday.
I know the Minister of State can imagine and appreciate the great disappointment on the receiving end in Ireland when a much anticipated gift is expected but never arrives. I have had a number of examples of that. A mother whose daughter and grandchildren live abroad, in Australia, sent gifts - this is just one example of many but it is typical - only to see those gifts returned to sender, causing a lot of disappointment, upset and frustration on both ends. Particular anniversaries and occasions have been missed and have failed to be marked in the way family members had hoped. They then learned the reason the gifts or parcels were not being received was because of a change in procedures. One was as a result of Brexit and the other related to the implementation of EU laws on data and custom codes. The barcode on the parcel being sent did not contain the required data that was obliged to be on it.
Of course, it is not just gifts. People who use the likes of Amazon and other international online retailers and wholesalers and who purchase goods from outside the EU, which now includes the UK, suffer the same frustration.
The gift, parcel, book, tool, article of clothing, shoes or whatever a customer has bought - so much shopping is now done online - does not arrive and is returned because it does not contain the required data or, in some cases, because the recipient does not realise they have to pay a tariff. In the meantime, some issues have arisen and I will get to some of those in the second part of the question.
I am curious that the Minister of State at the Department of Finance is here to take the question because An Post customer care staff are the ones who are at the coalface, taking all the complaints from disappointed customers as opposed to any other responsible Department or statutory agency with authority over this issue or that is responsible. I have a couple of other questions to ask but that has laid out the matter initially. I am grateful that the Minister of State is here to take the question.