Delivery disasters resulted in over 340,000 complaints over the last two years. In some ways that’s not that surprising, given that we were all reliant on deliveries over lockdown.

Yet, when I look at the complaints, it’s clear that countless things are going wrong with deliveries – and much the big firms need to do, to improve things.

Here’s my definitive guide to deliveries, from your rights if your purchases don’t turn up to delayed delivery dates.

Returns and your rights

The golden rule if your parcel is lost, damaged or doesn’t turn up is this. 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?

In the past, we saw endless complaints where people discovered their parcel had been left in a bin and taken away, chucked over a fence, or just left outside where it ‘vanished’.

This year, many delivery firms are asking their drivers to photo the item outside your front door. But this should not be happening if you’ve not specified where to leave a parcel – and the retailer should refund you if the item was not placed in your hands.

Make sure you check what delivery instructions you’ve left though. A lot can happen in a year and you may find that your circumstances have changed, so a new neighbour, for example, might not be the best place for your parcel to go.

Despite all this, the biggest bone of contention is parcels being left en masse in public areas, like communal foyers. If this happens, photo it (even if it’s not your parcel) and make a complaint to the company.

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.

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.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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