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Top risks of dealing with an unauthorised international express shipping agent

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Vietnam, a bustling trade hub, has seen a significant rise in demand for international shipping. This surge is in line with the country's burgeoning growth in sectors like manufacturing, technology, and e-commerce. The country recorded a total export value worth US$26 billion as of May 2023, a report by Vietnam Briefing revealed. The main exports include computers and electrical products, machinery and instruments as well as fabrics.  

It’s no surprise then that some of the most reliable international shipping companies, such as DHL Express, have established a strong local presence for more than 30 years, efficiently catering to this demand with unparalleled air express services and transit times. Other major players in the international logistics arena cover different transport modes, including sea and road, providing comprehensive solutions for Vietnam's diverse shipping and logistics needs. 

However, alongside this pool of trustworthy express delivery and shipping providers include an uninviting group of fake logistics companies. Otherwise called unauthorised shipping agents, these entities exploit the trust of unsuspecting corporate and individual customers, conducting operations under the guise of reputable logistics brands – for instance – to orchestrate a variety of scams and frauds. They thrive on deception, causing considerable harm in the form of financial loss, shipment delays, and damage to business reputation. 

Understanding more about these shipping agents can help you stay guarded.  

What do unauthorised shipping agents take advantage of? 

There are many reasons why unauthorised shipping agents are able to slide through the gaps and continue operating, some of which we have identified below: 

1. Globally established brand names  

Unauthorised shipping agents frequently piggyback on well-established brand names to circumvent marketing efforts and gain consumer trust. By doing so, they trick customers into thinking they're working with a legitimate and reputable shipping company. For instance, they might create a website, a social media account or a Google Maps listing with a slight variation in a popular brand's name and colour, making it seem official to an unwary customer. Or they may mimic the global enterprise’s exact name and brand colour but use their own contact details instead, creating even more confusion for customers. 

2. Customer’s lack of awareness 

3. Lack of transparent brand infringement 

The lack of robust mechanisms for identifying and penalising brand infringement allows unauthorised shipping agents to operate with relative impunity. Their activities become challenging to trace and stop as they often use fraudulent means to obscure their operations, such as using proxy servers or constantly changing their digital footprints. 

4. Intellectual property loopholes 

Unauthorised shipping agents take advantage of loopholes in intellectual property laws to conduct their operations with minimal risks. For instance, they might use generic terms related to shipping in their branding or modify the logo and colour of the global brand in diverse ways, making it difficult to pursue them for trademark infringement. This exploitation allows them to prolong their illicit operations without facing significant legal repercussions. 

7 risks of working with unauthorised express shipping agents 

When it comes to international shipping, businesses and personal shippers alike, unfortunately, can face numerous risks from fake logistics companies, the impacts of which are profound. Here are some risks these unauthorised agents pose: 

1. Lack of accountability and reliability 

Unauthorised shipping agents operate without any regulatory oversight or corporate governance. This lack of accountability often translates into inconsistent service levels, with shipments often being mishandled, lost, or delayed. For instance, a business might face scenarios where their products never reach the customers, leading to financial losses and tarnished relationships with clients. And should they approach the logistics company responsible for it, they may find themselves dealing with a non-existent or fake entity or struggling to reach any form of helpful customer service, leading to unresolved issues and further frustrations. 

2. Fraudulent activities 

Illicit shipping agents often partake in fraudulent activities, which can range from overcharging shipping fees to charging for non-existent services. In extreme cases, they might set up fake logistics company tracking systems, tricking clients into believing their goods are in transit when they have not been shipped at all. On top of causing a dent in a business’ finances, these scams can also disrupt operations and planning. 

3. Inadequate handling of sensitive information 

In the process of their deceit, unauthorised agents often obtain sensitive customer information like addresses and contact details, under the guise of providing reliable shipping services. However, with their lack of proper data protection systems and protocols, this sensitive information is at a high risk of being mishandled or even intentionally misused. The resulting data breaches can lead to severe consequences for customers, such as identity theft and privacy invasion. 

4. Potential delays, damage and loss of shipments 

Unauthorised agents would typically lack the stringent standard operating procedures that reliable shipping companies have since they would not have the capacity and resources to ensure this. This often results in significant delays, damage, and even loss of shipments. For instance, parcels could be mishandled, resulting in damage to goods. Furthermore, unreliable or non-existent tracking systems can lead to shipments getting lost with no way of locating them, causing both financial loss and harm to a business' reputation. 

5. Limited recourse in cases of disputes or issues 

When issues arise, such as damaged goods or missed deliveries, businesses have limited recourse with unauthorised shipping agents. These fake logistics services typically lack customer service infrastructure, and given their unregulated status, it is difficult for businesses to seek legal redress or enforce compensation claims. As a business, this can be devastating, especially when large volumes of shipments are involved. This can potentially lead to substantial financial losses and strained relationships with customers who would eventually hold the company accountable. 

6. Customer dissatisfaction 

The cumulative effect of the aforementioned issues creates a high level of customer dissatisfaction. Unreliable deliveries, poor handling of goods, and a lack of customer service all contribute to a negative customer experience. This dissatisfaction can lead to loss of business, damaging long-term relationships with customers. 

7. Damage to business reputation 

Further, all these factors, from unreliable services and shipping agent scams to breaches of sensitive information and a lack of recourse, can severely tarnish a business' reputation. When customers have a negative delivery experience, it can lead to poor reviews and negative word-of-mouth, damaging the brand's image and potential future business prospects. The ripple effect of a damaged reputation can be long-lasting and hard to repair, affecting the bottom line of businesses in the long run. 

How to identify an unauthorised international express shipping agent? 

With so much at stake, it’s only helpful to identify the key attributes of a fake or unauthorised international express shipping provider. Below, we map out some of the most crucial aspects you need to be aware of: 

Attribute

Unauthorised shipping agents

DHL Express

Shipping documentation

Mostly rely on handwritten air waybills 

Uses electronic shipping documents and air waybills, through the use of a password-protected digital platform, MyDHL+ 

Customer feedback channels

Typically unavailable or unprofessional due to inadequate and fake communication channels; unverified or no corporate social media presence; often using personal messaging profiles to interact with customers 

Always available through a range of official communication channels, which include:  

  • Customer service toll-free landline (1800 1530) 
  • Customer service WhatsApp (+84911423348) 
  • 24/7 Digital Assistant 
  • Verified social media channels 

Service quality

Offer enthusiastic support prior to shipment booking but often ends with poor management of the shipment creation process, inadequate shipment tools and package handling, incomplete orders, and irresponsible behaviour when dealing with issues 

Provides consistent service quality from the point of customer query to shipment creation to parcel delivery: 

  • Informative shipment guides to educate on the best shipment processes, including required documentation and packing guidelines for international express delivery  
  • Pick-up and drop-off services country-wide 
  • Customer support specialists with customs knowledge for smooth customs clearance 
  • Real-time tracking of parcels from the moment the parcel is picked up/dropped off by the sender to delivery 
  • Reliable shipment insurance coverage for added protection 
  • Specific express delivery timings are consistently met no matter where the recipient is located 

Cost

Offer very cheap rates and eventually reveal hidden costs upon shipment booking, often with hefty cancellation fees 

Provides clear cost structure through established rate cards based on the type of express service and location of delivery so that businesses can calculate international shipping costs more accurately 

Branding

Do not carry authentic branding across channels and corporate materials 

Maintains a globally standardised branding in terms of colour, font types and choice of visuals across all online and offline assets, including, but not limited to: 

  • Websites and social media channels 
  • Air waybills 
  • Packaging 
  • Service points and delivery fleet 
  • Uniformed delivery team 

Protecting your business interests necessitates meticulous planning and careful selection of your shipping provider. Follow these steps to ensure you choose a reliable and authorised international express shipping company: 

1. Verify credentials  

Conduct thorough background checks on potential shipping agents. Look for their business registration, operational licences, official premises, corporate website and social media accounts. Check if they are accredited by official bodies. For example, reputable international express shipping companies like DHL Express has been accredited by the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA), with 400th TAPA Level ‘A’ certification globally including the 100th in Asia Pacific, denoting the highest standards of shipment safety and security across its worldwide network.  

2. Look at the track record 

An agent's past performance can be a reliable indicator of their shipping services. Look for customer reviews and ratings on trusted platforms like Google and Trustpilot. Check for consistent delivery performance, how they've resolved issues in the past, and their response rate to customer inquiries. It’s also advisable to check for the provider’s credential through visiting online communities such as local Facebook groups on export-import and logistics. In some cases, certain community users may publicise scams by the fake agents for other users’ awareness. 

3. Establish clear communication and service agreements 

Ensure open lines of communication with your chosen shipping provider. Agree on specific terms of service, including delivery timelines, tracking services, liability for damages or losses, dispute resolution procedures, and any additional charges. Having these agreed upon and documented can provide legal protection and ensure smoother operations.  

4. Get shipping insurance 

Investing in comprehensive shipping insurance is essential to protect against potential losses or damages. Look for insurance policies that not only provide protection for your valuable shipments, but also offer swift and fair claims settlement. When you ship with DHL Express, for instance, your parcels are fully covered at an insurance value based on your shipment’s value. The cost of insurance is either a flat rate of VND315,000 or 1.5% of the insured value, if higher. Documents can also be covered at VND100,000 per shipment.  

Ship with DHL Express, a reliable international express shipping partner you can trust 

Your international shipping experience will be hassle-free when you choose DHL Express Vietnam. As a globally reliable logistics company, we have the all the infrastructure, processes and resources in place to safeguard your shipments, and assure fast and professional delivery. Create a business account with DHL Express today and experience the unparalleled peace of mind that comes with knowing your door-to-door shipping needs are in the best hands. 

Why not begin with our step-by-step overseas shipping guide for small and medium-sized enterprises?