It’s that time of year where people start to shop online ahead of ‘you know what’ or buy things of questionable merits from the internet sales.

Of course, when the sales begin, my postbag starts to fill with complaints about package delivery companies. Last year, hundreds of thousands of complaints were made about missing parcels, disputes over deliveries and the inability to contact various businesses.

Because of the way we shop, millions of people are now reliant on package delivery companies to get everything from essential purchases to gifts for Christmas. Yet there’s still a huge amount of confusion about consumer rights and deliveries.

So here’s my definitive guide, from your rights if your purchases don’t turn up to things to bear in mind before you click.

Missing and damaged parcels and your rights

By far the most misunderstood thing when it comes to deliveries – and something that will save you much time and frustration when you know the rules – is your contract is with the retailer not the delivery firm. Unless you’re the seller, of course.

That means the retailer is responsible for getting the goods to you and replacing or refunding you if there’s a problem. The delivery firm is their contractor, so the shop should deal with them for you – and its far easier for them to track the package too.

So it’s not your fault if your parcel is:

  • Left somewhere you haven’t authorised and goes missing or gets damaged.
  • Left with a neighbour you haven’t permitted.
  • Left in a communal or unsecured area.
  • Is broken or damaged when you open it (you don’t have to open on delivery, but your return rights have time limits so do check as soon as you can).

What if the firm claims the delivery has been made?

Complaints last year commonly involved deliveries that weren’t attempted – where someone had been in all day and had not heard a knock or ring of a doorbell – but increasingly involved allegations of faked signatures.

Since the pandemic, I’m hearing a lot more about a new phenomenon. ‘Knock and run’ deliveries are where you receive a knock or ring on your door only to catch a glimpse of the delivery man or woman beating a hasty retreat. This is often because of the ludicrous targets set by the delivery companies, so spare a thought for the courier. However, it means it’s even harder to prove the delivery was made to the right place if you are out.

Don’t get too wrapped up in the details. If you’re disputing that a delivery was made, take it up with the retailer. Just explain in simple terms what’s happened and ask them to take it up with the contractor. This doesn’t affect your refund rights.

Delivery dates

You are entitled to expect your goods to be delivered on the agreed date that you were given when your order was placed. If no date was given or agreed, the trader must get your purchases to you within 30 days of the order being placed. If this does not happen, you are entitled to a full refund. If you paid a supplement for a specified time or date of delivery, you can ask for this back.

If strike action is underway, then check with the delivery company first before sending an item. Some postal delivery methods still have guarantees so if the firm fails to deliver when it said it would, you might be able to get you money back or some compensation.

Foreign deliveries

Problems with orders from other countries are one of the fastest growing areas of complaint, as more and more foreign firms target your wallet through online websites and social media advertisements.

Returns can also be difficult and expensive. So before you buy from a non-UK firm, check:

  • If they have a UK website. Look for a UK address and confirm in writing that they are sending from the UK though.
  • If the prices are in Sterling. If it’s not you pay the exchange rate at the point the firm debits you, so it can fluctuate quite a bit. You will probably pay bank or credit card processing charges too.
  • What the policy is for returns and how to contact the firm if something goes wrong.

Be nice

Because of the sheer number of parcels flying around the UK on any given day, there’s a huge demand on delivery companies. Often the delivery drivers bear the brunt of this. They’re often underpaid and overstretched, so do be nice where you can.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

Please share me around

Share useful info with your friends