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Parcel pandemonium as thousands of Christmas packages go missing, are delivered late, or sent to the wrong address

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Dec 20, 2017

Britons are spending more online this Christmas than ever before – but more of us are being let down over parcel deliveries.

And it seems few of us know clearly what our rights are when things go wrong. 

A survey by the consumer group Which? found 56% of people did not receive a parcel when expected, with 21% saying at least one of their parcels hadn’t shown up at all.

One person reported their package was left under their car, one had a fragile item "tossed over the gate", and another said their package was given to a neighbour who opened it and showed it to people in the village.


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Some 10% of people quizzed said a delivery had been left outside without them giving permission.  4% said their parcel was left in a bin, and 3% said their item was thrown over a hedge or fence.

Some 2% of people found they couldn’t retrieve a parcel that had been left with an person they hadn’t authorised.

Other complaints were of long delays, lack of communication and of items being damaged after they had been forced through letterboxes.

Only 35% got their packages within the timeframe they expected.

But most of us don’t make a song and dance about things when we do experience a late delivery. A surprising 57% of people who had experienced a late delivery didn’t make a complaint.


It’s the retailer NOT the delivery company

In a separate survey, Which? found many shoppers don’t know who to contact when a delivery goes wrong.

One in three believed they should get in touch with the delivery company, and only half of those asked knew that complaints should be directed to the retailer.

Of those who expected a delivery in the past month, more than half did not contact anyone when the delivery didn’t arrive as planned, and so did not make a complaint.

Younger people aged 18 to 24 were the most active in complaining over a delivery problem, whereas over 65s were the most likely to do nothing.  

Which? director Alex Neill said: "A delivery nightmare can cause unwanted stress at this time of year, when more than ever customers want to know things will arrive in one piece and on time.

"Make sure you know your rights this Christmas just in case something unexpected happens to your delivery."

How to complain when a delivery goes wrong

If pay online for a delivery by a fixed date or time and it doesn’t arrive or is late, your most likely reaction is that someone is going to miss out this Christmas. But at least you do have certain rights under consumer law.

First, you have the right to end the contract, which has effectively been broken, and get a full refund.


What if goods are damaged or don’t turn up?

If your order doesn’t turn up at all, or is damaged, even if it’s obviously damage caused by the courier, you should always take the matter up with the retailer rather than the courier company.

The Consumer Rights Act says the retailer is responsible for the condition of any goods until you receive them, they are received by a neighbour you have nominated, or anyone else you may have nominated to receive the goods on your behalf, or left in a specified safe place. 


What if your parcel has been delivered to another person or address?

 This will only be a problem, obviously, if the neighbour denies any knowledge of receiving the parcel.

What happens next will depend on whether you nominated the neighbour or address. If you did, the courier and seller has fulfilled their part of the contract.

If you didn’t nominate the address or person, the seller is responsible, UNLESS it says in their T&Cs that they will deliver to a neighbour if necessary and you accept that.

If your parcel is left with a neighbour (who doesn’t have to be someone immediately next door) and you haven’t at any point nominated them, you can argue the company is in breach of contract.

Whatever the retailer may argue, you are in the right and the seller must either issue replacement goods or issue a refund.


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