Guaranteed for Christmas – delivery disasters and the rules when shopping online

What to do if your deliveries get to you late

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So much has changed over the past year as we’ve all been forced to adapt to life in and out of lockdown – one of the biggest is the way we shop.

Online shopping has revolutionised the way we live, browse and buy. From supermarket deliveries to obscure things you never knew you wanted, millions of us are regularly shopping online.

And that’s meant a huge increase in the number of deliveries on the road every day.

IT also means an increasing number of things are going wrong – with online shopping problems the top two categories in Resolver’s ‘most complained about’ list throughout 2020.

While they're not all inevitable, with a huge increase in preventable complaints.

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

Returns and your rights

What happens if you want to send it back?
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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).

Check out Resolver’s huge guide to shopping and your rights here.

What if the firm claims the delivery has been made?

What if they say it's been delivered?
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Last year, I was increasingly hearing from people who told me that the delivery firm insisted the parcel had been delivered.

These complaints most commonly involved no attempt at a delivery – where someone had been in all day to no knock or ring – but increasingly involved allegations of faked signatures.

Of course, now we’re sticking to social distancing, a new problem has arisen. ‘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 their ludicrous targets, so spare a thought for them. However, it means it’s even harder to prove the delivery was made to the right place.

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.

Safe spaces

Where they leave it matters
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A new area of complaint is the ‘safe space’ (not the ‘woke’ ones). If you have specified a place to leave your parcel and something happens to it, then I’m afraid you may not be able to seek a refund unless you can demonstrate it was ill-advised (during a storm or a riot, for example).

However, if you’ve set a safe space when you last bought something, it may still be saved on your app or website.

So make sure you check every instruction before you click to buy. A lot can change over a year – including your neighbours and security.

Delivery dates

Delivery windows are sometimes rather wide
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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.

This is stated in the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (formerly the Distance Selling Regulations applied) if you fancy getting all factual with a stubborn seller!

If you paid a supplement for a specified time or date of delivery, you can ask for this back. 

Foreign deliveries

Do your rights change if it's bought from abroad?
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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.

Just because a firm is in the US or China (other countries are available too) doesn’t mean it’s not legit – but your rights under UK law for returns and refunds diminish.

Bear in mind that it will take weeks (or longer) to get the goods too, so be very cautious about ordering in December if you want your gifts on time.

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.

Getting in touch

What happens if you can't get through

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A big source of complaint about delivery involves contacting the delivery company when something goes wrong.

While the retailer should be stepping in for you, if you’re having a redelivery issue, this isn’t always practical.

I’m working with the main delivery companies to encourage them to make the process as easy as possible, but I understand from the complaints I see that this is not easy with some businesses.

Try to stay calm and get the tracking number from the retailer to save time.

Private sellers

What if you're buying from a person, rather than a company
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Another growing area of complaint comes from people buying and selling things on online marketplaces, like eBay.

Remember you have fewer rights if you are buying from a private seller (though you do still have some protections). Most of our complaints here come from disputes over returns and sending goods.

Make sure you check and follow the delivery and returns rules on the website to the letter – photoing the process might seem a bit OTT, but it helps too. eBay and PayPal have buyer / seller dispute processes too if there’s a problem.

Be nice

Make sure you head's in the right space before getting in contact
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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. This doesn’t mean you should tolerate bad service, but it does pay to be sympathetic.

Oh and if you’re thinking about working the system to accidently pocket a parcel (not that I would ever suggest this), bear in mind the delivery person could end up paying for it, literally.

Get help with everything from online shops to delivery disasters. Resolver can help you get things sorted for free:  https://www.resolver.co.uk/