A consignee is someone to whom a shipment of goods is to be delivered. He or she has certain legal rights and responsibilities that are spelled out in the law. Because goods are often carried internationally, international law does concern itself with the specifics of consignees and how they work, but within countries, national law is often more specific. The opposite role is a consignor, the person who is shipping the goods.
Often, the consignor is the seller and the consignee is the buyer, although this is not always the case. Because there are concerns about how the shipment will be tracked, they are documented with the assistance of a bill of lading, which is used to indicate who and where the package is coming from, and who and where it is going to. The person who is to accept the delivery is named on the bill of lading to ensure that the shipment will be delivered to that person and that person only, unless he or she has an authorized agent. This reduces the risk that a shipment will be intercepted by a third party.
The consignee is treated as legally responsible for the goods in terms of filling out customs declarations, paying taxes and duties, and other legal issues. The consignor retains ownership of the goods until they have been paid for, however, at which point the title to the goods is passed over. If the consignee fails to pay or to fulfill other contractual obligations, the consignor can sue for satisfaction and repossess the goods.
Consignees are expected to comply with the law when it comes to which goods they receive. People who receive packages that contain illegal materials knowingly can be brought up on charges, although there may be instances in which shipments are intercepted and altered. Consignors are expected to document the contents of a shipment in detail to ensure that the person receiving it has a checklist that can be used to confirm that the shipment is complete. This documentation can also be used to demonstrate that the shipment was changed between the origination and the destination.
Shipping companies usually will not deliver a package unless the designated recipient or a recognized agent is present to sign for it. This is done to protect the shipper from legal liability that could arise from lost, stolen, or damaged loads. There may be circumstances in which alternate arrangements can be made, however; companies that deliver packages to homes may drop packages off without a signature, for example, if the consignor has stated that this is acceptable.