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Logistics & Fulfilment

Australia Post outage leaves small businesses in the lurch

Australia Post’s eParcel service was down for several days over the past week, forcing many small and medium businesses that use the national carrier’s parcel shipping, tracking and label printing service to find manual workarounds and, in some cases, causing deliveries to customers to be delayed.

The problems started early last week, when the shipping and tracking API and label printing infrastructure stopped working.

Around 3pm on 16 October, Australia Post published several updates in its Developer Centre stating it was aware of the issues and investigating them. Early the next day, it said the eParcel service was back up and running.

But just a few hours later, another notice appeared in the Developer Centre. The shipping and tracking API was down again. A few minutes later, Australia Post marked it as resolved.

The next two days were free of incident, according to updates published in the Developer Centre. But on 20 October, new problems emerged. Over the next five days, Australia Post reported intermittent interruptions to its shipping and tracking API and label print service, with periods of complete outage. As soon as one issue was resolved, another cropped up.

At the time of this writing, there have been no incidents on 25 October, but many eParcel customers are not holding their breath.

Nathan Huppatz, co-founder of ReadyToShip, a carrier integrator that partners with Australia Post, told Internet Retailing this was the worst outage he’s ever experienced, adding that the government-owned corporation often has problems with its APIs.

“We have thousands of customers with [eParcel] accounts and many were affected by the outages,” Huppatz said.

“Our partnerships with carriers are extremely important, and our customers rely on those carriers’ systems to be working. It’s been surprising for us that a national carrier had this big an outage.”

Huppatz noted that while ReadyToShip had no downtime itself, it was hamstrung by its partnership with Australia Post.

“It’s frustrating from an integrator’s point of view because some of [Australia Post’s] communication about status of the system wasn’t entirely accurate. When they said they were having intermittent outages, it appeared to us and other integrators that it was complete outages,” he said.

A spokesperson for Australia Post told Internet Retailing today that the company apologises for the inconvenience and has kept impacted customers informed of updates via its website, call centre, post offices and social media channels.

“We are investigating the cause of the intermittent issue – the most important thing for us and impacted customers is services have been restored and are operating normally,” the spokesperson said.

While Huppatz said it was unlikely that retailers lost sales due to the outage – explaining that many diverted orders to other carriers, or used manual workarounds – he said Australian consumers were likely impacted by slower deliveries.

“Usually when there’s an outage, people simply wait [for it to be resolved] to print out their labels. But they couldn’t do it this time…The weren’t able to get parcels out for a day or a day-and-a-half [after the order was placed].”

Huppatz said he has been approached by several ReadyToShip users about finding other carrier options, naming Sendle and Couriers Please as some of the alternatives they’re considering.

Sendle has already capitalised on the opportunity. It offered 48 hours of free Sendle Premium to businesses affected by the Australia Post outage.

But head of NORA, Paul Greenberg, said the outage isn’t reason to abandon Australia Post quite yet.

“I’m bullish that they’ll step up,” he told Internet Retailing.

“The optimist in me…if there are challenges, it’s good that they’ve happened now [ahead of Christmas]. Let’s give the team some time to tighten the bolts,” he said.

This article has been updated to include comment provided by Australia Post.

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