Is It Illegal To Open A FedEx Package

These days, there are a lot of concerns about package theft. Especially during peak package delivery seasons, it can be anxiety-inducing when your FedEx package does not show up when expected. And on top of this, there’s always a possibility that you will get a package that is not addressed. While getting packages for people who live with you is normal, misdirected packages can create a major ethical dilemma. Maybe that’s why many people ask if it is illegal to open a FedEx package.

You can open a FedEx package that is addressed to you. That’s the intent of package delivery. But what happens if your roommate is on vacation or your family member is in the hospital? Or, in another scenario, what if the package is addressed to someone who doesn’t live in your home?

FedEx packages do not have the same level of legal protection enjoyed by Postal mail or packages delivered by USPS. However, stealing people’s packages is illegal in every state. Although you may accidentally open someone else’s package, especially when expecting one yourself, it’s never a good idea to do so intentionally.

Let’s look at the legal issues around opening other people’s mail.

FedEx Packages Have Different Legal Protections From USPS Deliveries.

Well, usually. FedEx does have a product called SmartPost, with final delivery by USPS. In this case, opening up a package from FedEx would be treated the same way USPS handled the package from the beginning. In other words, intentionally opening someone else’s package in these circumstances may be a felony.

On the other hand, stealing a FedEx-delivered package is still theft. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how many packages you stole and the value of their contents. For instance, being a porch pirate three times in Georgia and several other states can get you a felony conviction.

FedEx Works With Law Enforcement When Packages Are Stolen

A recent report discussed a package theft problem at one of FedEx’s delivery centers. While it turned out that they had an insider theft problem, the employee was both fired and arrested. Additionally, FedEx has a page on your website where you can report lost or stolen packages.

Most FedEx packages have a minimal amount of insurance on the contents, and you can be sure that if FedEx pays out too much money for a claim, they will go to law enforcement. Besides, like any other company, FedEx will cooperate with law enforcement when requested.

With that said, FedEx won’t ban you from using their services just because you opened someone else’s package. After all, unless somebody files a report, they probably will not know that you opened the package. And, if you have relatives or roommates living with you, it’s easy to mistakenly open the wrong package. This is not a crime unless you’re trying to steal the merchandise.

Sometimes It’s Okay to Open a FedEx Package In Someone Else’s Name

Speaking of roommates and relatives, people living in the same home frequently share items and expenses. And in addition, sometimes it’s necessary to open a package to safeguard your housemate’s property.

Let’s look at a concrete example. These days, meal delivery services are extremely popular. They’re especially attractive to professionals who work a day job and don’t have much time to cook.

If the package is delivered in the middle of the day, and the recipient doesn’t arrive home for several hours, then it makes sense for a housemate to unpack the contents or place the box in the refrigerator. And in the second case, they might open the package to verify that it needs to be placed in the fridge.

Another good example is when somebody orders a household item will or multiple people split the bill. In this case, you will typically address the package to only one purchaser. Then, any household member might open it, but only if they’re certain the package contains the order. Even then, the other party should have permission to open the box rather than wait for the addressee to get home.

Ask permission from the other party

Unless you and the addressee agree to open one another’s packages, it’s always best to get explicit permission. This helps protect you from allegations of theft, which can quickly get you in legal hot water.

Besides legal consequences, however, you must also think about your relationship with the other person. Opening someone else’s box on purpose and 2without permission is usually considered a breach of privacy. And in turn, it hurts your trusting relationship with that person.

And remember, the worst thing that can happen when you ask first is that they say no. If Hello Fresh goes bad because of this refusal, it’s their fault, not yours.

What If The Package is Misdirected?

Especially during the summer “moving season” and seasonal rush times, you may see misdirected packages. Sometimes this is because the recipient moved before the package arrived, but it can also result from delivery errors.

In this situation, we recommend treating the package like a misdirected piece of First Class mail. FedEx doesn’t “return to sender” the way the Post Office does, but you can still have the package sent back. In this case, take it to the nearest FedEx facility and let them know the package has been misdirected.

Alternatively, you can contact the sender. They may have a specific procedure that you can use to get them the package.

Either way, your best bet is to send the package back unopened.

Final Thoughts

Opening someone’s FedEx package because you don’t notice it isn’t addressed to you is not a crime. This is true whether FedEx or USPS delivers the package. However, keeping the contents can get you in trouble at the state or federal level. Furthermore, if you live with someone else, get permission from them to open the package. It isn’t worth assuming you’re OK just because you live together.

The breakdown in trust isn’t worth it.

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