Your rights when parcels go missing

Have you shopped online only to find your parcel dumped in the recycle bin, left out in the rain or thrown over a fence? if so, you're not alone.

Here at Moneywise HQ, we're inundated with letters from frustrated readers who have been caught out by delivery companies. Many report deliveries failing to turn up, items damaged in transit, or packages left in unsafe places. We also hear about problems sending an item – through eBay sales, for example – and confusion about the raft of parcel and courier companies keen to win your business.

In either case, getting hold of companies when things go wrong can prove frustrating, with readers reporting that retailers, parcel companies and third-party brokers frequently blame each other.

The rise of online shopping has led to an increase in the number of parcel delivery companies. But, crucially, unlike the Royal Mail, these companies are unregulated.

Royal Mail is what's called the 'designated universal service provider'. This means it's subject to strict conditions set down by ofcom, the regulator. These include delivering to every UK address six days week, at affordable and uniform prices. The rules mean Royal Mail is routinely undercut by private parcel delivery and courier firms, which have no such conditions to stick to.

Receiving a parcel

If you order something online, you tend to be stuck with the parcel company the retailer uses. There are plenty for the retailer to choose from including yodel, hermes, City link, TNT, DHL and Parcelforce.

Most big retailers will use a couple of different companies but there's no definitive list of which retailers use which firms. Most retailers don't even tell you which company is delivering the parcel – you simply find out when the parcel turns up or a card arrives through your door.

Inevitably, some parcel firms receive much better customer feedback than others. in January, Yodel was named the worst parcel delivery firm in a poll by website The vast majority (58%) of voters said they'd had a bad experience with the firm. in comparison, only 11% of voters picked out DPD and Collect Plus for bad service.

When deliveries go wrong

If you buy items online, numerous things can go wrong: goods may be faulty or damaged, or not turn up at all. A recent Which? investigation found six in 10 shoppers had encountered a problem with an online delivery.

"The good news is consumers are protected by the distance selling Regulations, which give you rights covering delivery, cancellations and returning goods that are faulty," says a Which? spokesperson. "it is the seller's responsibility for the condition of the goods before they arrive, so it is important people know their rights so they can fight back against shoddy service."

Cost of sending a 20kg parcel from London to Manchester using

City Link £10.74 inc. VAT Collected Next day
Parcelforce 24 £13.19 inc. VAT Collected 24 hours
Yodel £17.99 Collected Next day
Parcelforce 48 £11.99 inc. VAT Collected 48 hours
TNT £11.94 inc. VAT Collected Next day

So what are your rights?

If your parcel doesn't turn up, or is late, your first port of call should be the retailer as this is who has the relationship with the courier or parcel company. Under the Sale of Goods Act, goods should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'. What's reasonable will depend on the type of goods and the original estimate for delivery.

After a 'reasonable' time has elapsed, you can cancel your order under the Distance Selling Regulations and receive a full refund.

If you paid for a timed delivery – for example, the next day – and your parcel is late, you're perfectly entitled to ask for a refund of the money you paid for faster delivery.

Sending parcels

If you want to send a parcel you have three main choices: Royal Mail, going direct to a courier or delivery company, or using a third-party broker.

Companies such as Parcel Monkey, Parcel Hero,, and are all parcel brokers. They sell various pick-up and delivery options nationwide such as same day, next day, and 48 hours from all the major courier and parcel companies. You can compare the rates offered by parcel brokers at

Daniel Parry, its managing director, says: "There aren't actually that many parcel companies. I think what causes this perception is the proliferation of online parcel brokers. Parcel brokers are essentially re-sellers; a re-seller will have an account with the main parcel companies and then re-sell the service to smaller, ad hoc customers."

There's certainly money to be saved by using a broker. Using broker, couriering a 10kg package from south-east London to Rochester in Kent, picked up one day and delivered the next can cost as little as £10.74 with City Link.

Using Parcelforce24 (the parcel arm of the Royal Mail) via P4D will cost £13.19 or £11.99 if you use Parcelforce48.

The problem with parcel brokers is that when things go wrong, there's a third party involved. Locating a lost parcel can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Most couriers and parcel companies offer an online tracking option which, in theory, shows where your parcel is. In reality, tracking often shows messages like 'on lorry for delivery', which doesn't tell you much.

Unhappy customers

A quick Google search shows you exactly how many customers are unhappy with the service they have recieved from couriers. Parcel Monkey in particular has numerous comments from unhappy customers trying to locate their packages.

A key issue is that Parcel Monkey does not provide a telephone number; customers have to send a message via its website instead.

Dave Dowman, group operations director at Parcel Monkey, says it doesn't offer end-users a phone number in order to keep costs down. "Parcel Monkey processes in excess of 45,000 parcels each month and although we endeavour to ensure that each delivery is free from faults, due to the nature of parcel delivery our chosen carriers experience issues and mistakes are naturally made," he says. "We proactively monitor our suppliers' service levels and as an average this sits at 98.5% delivered on time."

Parry says when deliveries fail to arrive, rather than dealing with the carrier direct, consumers have to deal with the parcel broker, which in turn then has to deal with the parcel carrier. "So the service you get will only be as good as the parcel broker you use," he explains.

If you paid for a 'timed delivery' and the parcel turns up late, you'll be eligible for compensation. How much you'll receive will vary depending on the length of delay, the courier and the type of delivery you paid for. For this reason, it's best to check your entitlement to compensation before you choose a delivery option.

What you won't get is compensation for 'consequential losses'. For example, if you pay for your passport to be couriered somewhere and its failure to turn up on time means you can't board a flight, you won't be covered for the cost of the flight.

Your Comments

Why does this article talk about "Distance Selling Regulations"? Once again Moneywise gets it wrong.

The Distance Selling Regulations no longer apply in UK law

As of 13 June 2014 the new Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to all purchases you make at a distance.

I'd like to know where I stand in my situation.
Hermes left me a note to say they delivered to me (while I was at work) and left the item behind the bin (next to the outside of my front door).
I checked but the item wan not there (item bought from Boots).
The Hermes courier left a mobile number, which I called, and was told the item was definately left there and check again. Which i did, but definately no item.
I was then accused of being irresponsible asking for a delivery if I was not going to be in to receive it. I replied by saying that when I put the order in with Boots I asked fot the item to be delivered to either of my neighbours. I have a screen grab to proove my order was as I said it was.
The courier told me it wasn't his issue and to contact Boots. Which I did. They have now said they have to see what the couriers tell them, which I can only assume that the item was delivered and as far as they are concerned thats the end of the matter.
Its obvious what has happened. The item was deliverd but then taken by someone/stolen. My front door has public access as does the bin that the item was left behind. To me that was not a safe secure place, although Hermes have left items there in the past and I have received them no problem.
Its now a week until Xmas, I have no present to give, not enough money to replace that item because the courier driver didn't leave the item with a neighbour or a secure place/or take it back to the depot!!

Help me! My parcel was purchased from an ebay company who used Yodel, Yodel delivered to an address and was signed for by someone else. I have complained to the seller ebay an the Yodel I can neither get a refund the seller has been advised by ebay to make a refund but has sided with the seller even though they know i didnt sign for the Item. Ebays so called "byer protection is useless an doesnt cover me. Yodel where uncoperative an refered me to the seller. Ive even tried to find the person who signed for the parcel myself by using the phone book as I have the signers name. If you could advise on what to do next that would be great. 
My advise is not ti use ebay or trust them.

I have absolutely the same problem with YODEL and Ebay! Never received my parcel. One week of investigation and no any result. Courie lies. Track number said that parcel arrived at 9.14am, but I did get it. Driver said that delivered to my address and someone in my flat opened the door and said that he is my friend (ridiculously impossible I am working till 4pm and no one was at home for 200%), after he said that he left it in a safety place (but I do not have any safety place around), after he said that left it with neighbours (I have asked all next door people and no one have seen a YODEL courier) after he said that it is my fault because I throw out a card into the bin( also impossible because he did not leave any card) in the end he said that hundreds of people like me calling him every day and he does not remember where he left my parcel - dropped the phone, does not want to pick it up when I am calling . So what the hell is going on?!
I cannot get any refund from Ebay as they say that parcel has been delivered! (but not to me) Where to right a complain, how to get money back?!

I sent a parcel by parcel to go on the 25th of August p2g31106859 to 46 eagleworks drive Walsall. A yodel driver picked the parcel up after 3 days. I just a mail this morning saying the that the parcel is missing pls what can I do pls .i feel very sad right now as I never got a response from parcel to go till I got the email today.pls help me

We have received a request for a claim against order no. P2G31106859


Firstly, please accept our apologies that you have had to claim for this parcel and for the frustration and inconvenience this can cause.


To process a claim you will need to be registered;


If you click on 'Create Claim' and follow the instructions you will then be prompted to enter some information about your items.


When checking our records, we can see that you opted not to take out compensation against this item and we will therefore be refunding the carriage only on this order. As such, you do not need to upload any documents and we will keep you informed of the refund status by email.


If your item is lost, we will of course make every effort to locate it and have it delivered to its destination and you will be kept informed of progress by email.


Once again, please accept our apologies.


Kindest Regards


The Claims Team

I received faulty goods from an online distributor of electrical goods.
They arranged the goods to be uplifted by the logistics carrier they use for the purposes of delivery and uplift of faulty goods.    The contract was between the distributor and the carrier.
I was told by the carriers driver there was nothing to sign.   
The goods are now lost and the distibutor is telling me that it was my responsibility to have signed for proof of the item being uplifted even though I didn't instigate the or arrange for the uplift in the first instance.
What are my rights to recompense after having paid for the goods (almost £200) but have nothing to show for it.   I've had to purchase another item from a different source, paid for two but only got one. 

How about this one - i paid for a gift from Currys for my husband. It needed to be there by the next day, and i check that i was able to do this, and paid extra for it for next day delivery.
Somehow, my order was processed as a 'non urgent order' by currys, and i was informed by text that i would get the delivery 3 days later than planned instead, which would be too late for me.
I requested to cancel the order and get a refund, and they refused saying it 'wasn't possible'. They supposedly cancelled the delivery from their warehouse to DPD , their courier. I ring today (4 days after my purchase) and they can't even tell me where it is. 
They are refusing to refund me, despite the order not even arriving at the destination at all. 
What do I do? Im not legally responsible for this, but they are holding my money. I can't find anything online about this.

Hello Bunmi I am in your shoes as well and YODEL was what i used through P2G. It is really sad that these companies do not owe us a duty of care and all you get is the postage fee. Mine was a medium sized suitcase and I wonder how this went missing when its not a piece of paper. Really sad 

Any info here. 
i ordered a parcel on eBay. The seller posted with Hermes to my work address. I was out the day the parcel arrived and when I came back I went to reception where all parcels have been taken to previously and nothing was there. (I'm in a block of offices so reception takes all post) I contacted Hermes and they sent me a signature that was signed and at what time etc... But I don't know the sig and neither do any of the reception ladies. 
I contacted the seller as I believe if I needed to claim from Hermes it would have to come from him. 
I have requested to see the cctv to see if I can see who has taken it and see if I can get it back. But if the delivery driver didn't go to reception they could have handed it to anyone. 
Not only that but a parcel was received around the same time from Hermes for another company in my block. So a member of Hermes delivery has been in the building to drop something off. 
ifthe cctv doesn't show anything and there's a random signature for the parcel, do I have any luck in getting anything back? The item was 350 pounds? I don't feel I can go back to the seller as he's held up his end of the bargain. 

I have had problems waiting for a parcel from Hermes.The sender was Yorkshire Linen .Ive waited 2 and half weeks to sort this.Hermes courier put 2 'Am sorry we missed you' through door at same time, nothing else on the card. I was in at time but no one there when i heard cards coming through door..Then the tracking said Delivered when it was not.Yorkshire linen have had terrible trouble contacting Hermes who say they delivered.Eventually just got my refund today from Yorkshire Linen who have been very good .I believe courier stole the parcel I have no doubt of that I would not trust Hermes self employed couriers, they can just say anything your word against theres.I am lucky with my sender refunding.

Hermes are particular bad the customer services is non-existent and all they simply keep saying to you as we need more time no matter how many more weeks go by it's more time they require is the CEO of the particular problem I believe because she knows about the Proms what exists yet doesn't want to do anything too busy spending all the money we paid out. So Carole Woodhead get your act together cuz you might regret one day treating people like crap