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 Moneysavingexpert.com. 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 P4D.co.uk
|CARRIER||PRICE||COLLECTED OR DROPPED OFF||ARRIVAL|
|City Link||£10.74 inc. VAT||Collected||Next day|
|Parcelforce 24||£13.19 inc. VAT||Collected||24 hours|
|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.
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, MyParcelDelivery.com, and P4D.co.uk 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 DeliveryQuoteCompare.com.
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 P4D.co.uk, 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.
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.
Invented by a Frenchman in 1954 and ironically introduced in the UK on 1 April 1973, VAT is an indirect tax levied on the value added in the production of goods and services, from primary production to final consumption and is paid by the buyer. Its levying is complex, with a number of exemptions and exclusions. For example, in the UK, VAT is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes and the non-VAT status of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes was challenged in a UK court case to determine whether Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. The judge ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake, McVitie’s won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.