By Rivonia Naidu

Internet retailer Amazon.com has confirmed that it will not use the South African Post Office for door-to-door deliveries, citing the need for the postal utility to improve its customer services.

In an interview via e-mail, Patty Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon.com, diplomatically confirmed that a decision had been taken to change postal options, and this commenced on June 12.

Smith would not elaborate on why the SAPO's customer services needed improving.

On Sunday, the Sunday Tribune made damning claims that the country's postal service is the only one in Africa to have been blacklisted because of the large number of items that have gone missing, presumed stolen.

"We have changed our shipping options for deliveries from the US website to ensure a better customer experience," Smith said.

"Priority shipping is now the only option for customers who place orders from the amazon.com website, since priority shipping enables us to better track the package and ensure that it reaches the customer when promised."

She said the decision at this stage would only affect buyers who purchase goods from the amazon.com website and that Amazon continued to accept orders for South African customers from all its websites in the US and Europe.

"Several other shipping options are available for customers ordering from Amazon's European websites, such as www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.de and www.-amazon.fr," she said.

Amazon.com made the surprise announcement without first informing the post office, which learned about the decision when it was contacted for comment by Business Day.

Amazon.com said it would now use a courier service, which would cost more than R400 for delivery - excluding the price of the product purchased. The price would also depend on the rand/dollar exchange rate.

Lungile Lose, from the SA Post Office, said they had still not heard of this decision from Amazon.

"We haven't heard anything from Amazon about this issue and we are currently in talks with the US Postal Service about what's going on, because whatever Amazon delivers to us is delivered via the US Postal Service … We will also take this problem up with the Universal Postal Union," he said.

Items from Amazon pass through other international postal service providers from their depots around the world.

Lose said they would like to talk to Amazon.com about which part of the route was problematic.

He said they had tried to make contact with Amazon, but have so far had no success.

"The US Postal Service is assisting us by making contact with Amazon to find out the root of the problem," Lose said.

He said before this situation, the post office had also been in regular contact with the US Postal Service.

"This issue has not come up. The situation is regrettable and unexpected, but the media has also spun this situation out of control.

"In all of the stories published regarding this issue, Amazon's voice is not there. And when quoting the post office, many of these stories are written in a manner that suggests we were sleeping until this happened … and this is not the case," he said.

He said while there had been problems with theft, there were measures in place to curb the problem.

"We have to look at the problem in its proper context.

"The post office deals with between five and six million parcels and letters a day, and figures from the last financial year states that there were only about 1 699 reported complaints of parcels that went missing," Lose said.

Justin Drennan, founder of WantItAll.co.za, an online retailer that supplies the South African market with products that are available on Amazon.com, said: "Things are a bit sketchy right now, however it seems like due to fraud they have removed the option for a standard shipping rate to SA, meaning you will need to ship with priority services (like DHL)," he said.