Have you experienced a delivery disaster? You are not alone. In fact, ask any of your friends, family or colleagues and the majority will have a story about a parcel going missing, turning up broken or being left in a random place.

This year, an emerging new trend with package delivery problems is the picture that ‘proves’ the delivery took place. I’ve seen loads of your pictures of parcels propped up by random shoes, leaning on unidentified doors or inside mysterious containers (almost always bins). In my favourite recent example, one delivery company was insistent that the package had been correctly delivered – despite the wrong door number featuring prominently in the photograph!

Package delivery issues are without a doubt one of the biggest sources of frustration for readers. So here’s my guide to your rights when things go wrong.

Who is responsible for my delivery?

If you have a problem with a delivery, your contract is with the retailer not the delivery firm.

That means the shop is fully responsible for getting the goods to you and replacing or refunding you if something goes wrong. Think of the delivery firm as a contractor working for the retailer.

The delivery company is responsible for getting the parcel to you or leaving it where you have specified. It’s not your fault if your parcel is:

  • Left somewhere you haven’t authorised.
  • Left with a neighbour.
  • Left in a communal or unsecured area.
  • Left outside a door (then nicked).
  • Broken or damaged when you open it.

What if the delivery company claims the delivery has been made?

Complaints about missing packages tend to follow trends. In the past, the main complaint I heard was when a delivery company falsely claimed that they had attempted to deliver when in fact you were at home all day, waiting for a knock at the door.

In order to crack down on this, delivery companies have introduced a range of ways to ensure that the package is actually delivered, which is why I’m hearing so many complaints about photographs that don’t prove anything if you’re not in them! The same goes for signatures that aren’t your signature and tracking apps that claim the item has been delivered.

Don’t get too wrapped up in the incident. If you’re disputing that a delivery was made, take it up with the retailer. Just explain in simple terms what’s happened and point out how the package delivery company does not have accurate proof of delivery. This doesn’t affect your refund rights.

If your item is M.I.A, then you are entitled to a full refund by law, or you can request that the shop sends the item again. If the retailer doesn’t play ball, threaten them with the Small Claims Court.

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 shop must get your purchases to you within 30 days of the order being placed. If this does not happen, you should get a full refund. If you paid a supplement for a specified time or date of delivery, you can ask for this back too.

Foreign deliveries

You might not realise it, but ordering from those attractive ads on social media sites might mean you’re actually buying from a shop abroad.

This can be a nightmare, because returns can also be difficult and expensive. So before you buy from a non-UK firm, check to see:

  • 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.

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


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