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When your battery goes flat, don’t call Postman Pat

Postman Pat

In January, lithium batteries were added to the list of prohibited goods by the Royal Mail. As online sellers start using expensive couriers for delivery, could the cost of buying lithium batteries suddenly shoot up?

The Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Transport have agreed new rules with Royal Mail to prohibit lithium batteries being sent via its postal network.

This means that lithium batteries, from the small coin cell types to the larger batteries found in your digital camera or smartphone, are no longer accepted by Royal Mail when sent in a package on their own. However, it’s still fine to send batteries in the post if they’re sent with, or contained within other equipment.

So, it’s fine to send a digital camera with a lithium battery inside it via Royal Mail, but it’s prohibited to send a battery on its own. And it’s fine to send lithium batteries by themselves as long as it’s not via Royal Mail. NiMH and other rechargeable batteries are not affected by the changes.

The price of lithium battery rules

Confused? I know I am – but these are the rules for the moment. And those who sell lithium batteries can no longer use Royal Mail, meaning they’ll have to pay extra to use courier services.

For example, one online shop I checked uses its express courier to ship orders containing lithium batteries at a cost of £5.99. So, if I wanted to buy a pack of five lithium coin cell batteries priced at £0.49, it would cost me £6.48!

Legislation is different in other countries, so if the batteries are sent from outside the UK, lithium batteries can still enter Royal Mail network. So how can Royal Mail enforce the rules? And is a little coin cell battery really that dangerous?

I wonder if the new rules might lead to a boom for high-street battery sales. But in the meantime, I just hope I don’t need a replacement battery for my camera or smartphone anytime soon.

Nicola says:
31 January 2015

I want to send a toy via royal mail which contains 2 AA batteries, can anyone advise if this is OK?

ChrisM says:
1 February 2015

AA batteries are normally alkaline or zinc technology and so they are fine and acceptable. “Lithium” batteries are the issue for Royal Mail but that can include the very small disc shaped calculator batteries which are basically inert. Again Royal Mail state that you can send Lithium batteries if they accompany the equipment and you can even put 2 more as spares in that same box – but the question is, why are Lithium batteries un-safe on their own but fine when packed with the equipment – its is a nonsense and one that has very unfairly affected many peoples businesses!

SM says:
3 March 2015

So what happens in this case …

My husband bought a lithium battery replacement for a portable DVD player online. He checked the requirements thoroughly and found a battery that matched, he checked dimensions and all were ok. The battery arrived via Parcel Force and lo and behold it is actually larger than the dimensions specified on the website. He wants to return it and get a refund, the company agree to refund on receipt of the battery. He cannot send the battery as Royal Mail and every other courier will not handle lithium batteries unless a specific contract account is in place with added insurance.

The company will not budge, can not offer help with getting the battery back to them and has suggested he sell it on to ‘any friend who may be able to use it’. Absolutely ridiculous, misold based on an inaccurate description and no way to return the product.


ChrisM says:
4 March 2015

Most sellers whether based in the UK, China, Hong Kong or USA are still using Royal Mail for the final delivery. It seems that Royal Mail have pretty much ignored this issue now as they realise it’ll cost them too much business and time to police it. And besides small lithium batteries are not really dangerous – I mean we are surrounded by millions of lithium batteries and how often do we know of any starting a fire etc. The problem was actually with a planes lithium battery which caused a fire and it was an over reaction by the CAA and Royal Mail to ban the shipment of these batteries. Despite writing several emails to both Royal Mail and the CAA they cannot explain the rules to me in a sensible manner and have indeed ignored my last emails to them requesting clarification. Its attrocious to have affected so many businesses as they did and without policing the system for those who were clearly flaunting it / getting away with it!
Common sense and business sense does not seem to be their strong points!

battery user says:
13 March 2015

This problem is causing me a right headache. I have power tool Lithium polymer batteries to return to the manufacturer for repair but I need to insure them as they are expensive so I have to declare that they are lithium batteries and, of course, no courier will touch them.

Can anyone suggest how I can ship them with insurance?

ChrisM says:
16 March 2015

Assuming you are trying to send it back to a UK based supplier – Couriers should be OK. It is Royal Mail that wont transport them. Royal Mail sometimes move post around the UK by plane so on the advice of the CAA do not accept any Lithium batteries. If a Courier company doesn’t transport them by plane then you should be fine!?

Darren says:
7 May 2015

To sum up. If a mobile phone battery was the size of a house brick and weighed well above 2kg I’m 100% certain that these restrictions would never be in place. You can send a mobile phone containing a battery, but not a battery in sealed packaging lol

Darren says:
7 May 2015

.71p large letter. What do you think?

For a Second Class Large Letter it’s 74p now [from 30 March 2015].

At this rate it is going to be too expensive to even consider sending batteries by post. 🙁

ChrisM says:
8 May 2015

and the amounts of batteries sent by post must be massive – batteries for everything, range of batteries, availability and much cheaper on the internet too. You would think that Royal Mail would clarify their position as it must be affecting their business to have such confusion. I have tried but given up – they (Royal Mail) clearly do not care enough about the loss of business or their Customers!!

I can understand why Royal Mail want to ban lithium batteries. An ebay seller sent me some large 18650 lithium batteries in nothing more then a bubble wrap envelope. The outta wrapping of the battery was also damaged.

I guess its easier for them to ban all lose lithium batteries. If they are packaged correctly they are completely safe .

Paul M says:
12 January 2016

BTW ChrisM, did you find a workaround for this issue? I know a lot of batteries we order now are sent by Yodel.

Hi. I am trying to send a mobile phone to ltaly. Which has a battety inside that i cant move.
Royal mail have told me that ltaly do not accept batteries t so ever??
But when looking online it says batteries can be sent if it is contained inside something.
Does anyone have any advice on this?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Mr Magoo says:
19 April 2018

Being of a suspicious nature I have a different point to make…I received a battery through the post (via RM) a few days ago, but need to return it.

As luck would have it, I’d been following a forum on the subject of RM, and in so doing discovered that IF RM find lithium batteries “in the postal system”…they will be destroyed, and (as Amazon has been, to the tune of £20,000+) the sender fined.

SO, the seller (via Amazon) sent it to me in a jiffy bag (minus UN 3480) and I’m expected to return it at MY expense, AND attach the UN 3480? Umm…

So NOW my return package has a flag on it, saying “I’m a battery”, I post it (at my cost, 2B refunded when received by seller) but given the UN 3480 sticker, fully expect this package to find itself scrapped? I’d call that a result…for the seller.