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 – we find out what you can do when things go wrong
While online shopping can be quick and convenient, it can be extremely frustrating when your delivery fails to turn up.
The boom in online shopping means more people than ever before are using postal and courier service companies.
However, for some consumers, ordering online can turn into a nightmare, with retailers and delivery firms unwilling to take responsibility for parcels that go missing.
Problems with parcel deliveries are costing consumers more than £85 million a year, recent research from Citizens Advice found.
The charity questioned more than 5,000 people and found that six out of 10 shoppers have had a delivery go wrong.
Problems include deliveries failing to turn up, items damaged in transit, or packages left in unsafe places.
When you order something online, the parcel company you end up with will usually be decided by the retailer. Firms used by online retailers include Hermes, DHL, TNT, DHL and Yodel.
Most companies don’t even tell you which company is delivering, and you only find out once you have received your package.
What are your rights?
The good news for consumers is that if your parcel goes missing or is damaged, you are protected under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013.
If it does not turn up or is late, the first thing you should do is contact the retailer – not the courier. This is because your contract is with the retailer.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, online retailers are responsible for all goods until you receive them.
This means that if the courier loses the goods you ordered or they are damaged, the retailer is responsible for putting things right.
According to the act, all retailers have to make deliveries within 30 days unless another time frame was agreed upon.
If you paid to have your delivery at a set time or date and your parcel is late, you have the right to cancel the order and demand a refund.
The Consumer Rights Act also protects you if your order is damaged. According to the act, all products must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and as described.
If a product is faulty when you buy it or if something happens over time you are entitled to a repair, a refund or a replacement.
It is also worth bearing in mind that when you buy something online you have a 14-day grace period to change your mind after receiving your order – even if there is nothing wrong with it. You also do not have to give a reason. If the item is faulty or broken, you have 30 days to return the item and receive a full refund.
An increasing number of delivery firms and retailers are coming under fire for problems delivering parcels.
Last year, consumer rights group Resolver received an astonishing 35,339 complaints about delivery companies – up by 203%.
In some cases, retailers and couriers are failing to take responsibility if a parcel does not arrive, claiming they have been signed for of left in a safe spot.
Some consumers have accused couriers of forging signatures and even dumping parcels, while others have complained that their parcels have been put in places where they are easily stolen.
Martyn James, from Resolver, says: “We have seen the big increase in complaints about fake signatures and parcels being left in the wrong place. Delivery firms are trying to keep costs down, which is putting pressure on the drivers.
“Some of them have ludicrous targets, so it is no wonder they sometimes cut corners.”
He believes the problem is a symptom of the gig economy.
“If delivery companies employed drivers and paid them decent wages, there would be less of a problem,” he says.
“Third-party couriers are cheaper, but if you reduce costs the quality tends fall. Anything that adds another step is something else that can go wrong, and I don’t see how that improves the service.”
While a retailer is legally responsible for a parcel, if a courier says it has been delivered you could be refused a refund.
If the retailer tries to shift the blame and refuses to refund you, there are steps you can take to get your money back.
First of all, you should make a complaint using its formal process.
If your parcel was left in an unsecure location outside your property that was not agreed upon, you can argue that the retailer was in breach of contract and ask for a refund.
When a retailer sides with a courier and says the parcel has been signed for when you were not at home, ask for evidence of a signature. You can also request a description of the person the driver spoke to and evidence of the time the driver was outside your house.
Another useful tactic is to use social media such as Facebook or Twitter to complain to customer services and raise awareness.
If this does not work, you can still ask for a refund if you have paid by credit card. This is because on credit card purchases over £100, you are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Debit card payments are not covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, but If your payment is less than £100 contact your debit card provider as you may be able to make a claim for a refund under a voluntary scheme called ‘chargeback’.
You can also raise a case with an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme so that it can get in touch with the retailer on your behalf, reducing the need to take the retailer to court. Visit Cdrl.org.uk for details of schemes.
Lots of the complaints Resolver receives revolve around how hard it is for consumers to arrange a collection or redelivery.
A lack of phone numbers, direct email addresses and complicated websites also make things more complicated for consumers.
Couriers that do not have phone lines include Parcel Monkey, ParcelHero and Parcel2Go.
Dave Dowman, group operations director at Parcel Monkey, says it does not 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."
Daniel Parry, managing director at parcel broker DeliveryQuoteCompare.com, 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.
"The service you get will only be as good as the parcel broker you use," he explains.
Since the Royal Mail lost its monopoly in 2006, there have been a raft of new competitors offering cheaper parcel deliveries.
Prominent rivals include courier firms such as FedEx, Hermes, UPS and Yodel, which have all seen their market share grow.
With Royal Mail’s Parcelforce service, there are a number of ways you can send, say, a 10kg parcel.
Prices start at £24.18 with expressAM if you book online, going up to £44.34 for the express9, which guarantees delivery by 9am the next day.
Delivery time is guaranteed when you pay for next morning delivery. If your parcel does not arrive on time you will be refunded 100% of the delivery cost. The delivery options also come with £200 compensation cover if there is any loss or damage.
Alternatively, you can use the Royal Mail’s Signed For service, which costs £22.90 to send a 10kg parcel first class. If it is damaged or lost, there is compensation worth up to £50.
There is also a guaranteed by 1pm next-day delivery option, which costs slightly more at £26.60 for a 10kg parcel and comes with compensation cover of up to £500.
While the Royal Mail is the cheapest for sending cards and small items, courier services usually offer the best prices for posting parcels, with prices generally based on the size and weight of packages.
For a 10kg parcel sent from London to Manchester, MyHermes – the consumer subsidiary of Hermes charges £6.49. This comes with free cover up to a value of £20 in the event of damage and for an extra £10.20, you can get full cover for items worth up to £300. Above £300 there is no cover.
Meanwhile, DHL is one of the more expensive options, with the firm charging £40.44 for a 10kg parcel for the same journey.
For more expensive items, such as laptops, it is important to take out insurance to make sure you are covered if it is lost.
However, most couriers only offer a limited amount of cover. Parcelforce offers enhanced compensation with cover worth up to £2,500, but this can cost up to £200, depending on the service.
You should also check whether the item you plan to send is on the courier’s list of excluded items for compensation, as you generally won’t be covered if the item is lost – even if you take out insurance. Excluded items include tickets for events, cameras and televisions.
Comparison of courier firm prices for sending a 10kg parcel in packaging 60mm x 50mm x 50mm from London to Manchester
|Courier firm||Price||Collected or dropped off||Arrival|
|MyHermes||£6.49||Collected||Within three working days|
|Collect +||£9.39||Dropped off||Two to three working days|
|TNT (Will become FedEx Express)||£9.62||Collected||Next day|
|UPS||£13.79||Collected||Two working days|
|Parcelforce expressAM||£24.18||Collected||Next day|
|DHL||£40.44||Collected||One working day|
Source: Moneywise, December 2019
Parcel brokers, such as Parcel Monkey, Parcel Hero, MyParcelDelivery.com, and P4D.co.uk, can often work out cheaper than using a courier or the Royal Mail. This is because brokers deal in bulk with traditional couriers, allowing them to get a cheaper price which can then be passed on to consumers.
If you opt for a parcel broker, you will get all the usual pick-up and delivery options you would with a courier.
If you use Parcel Monkey to send a 10kg parcel from London to Manchester, for next day delivery it can cost as little as £12.18 with Parcelforce. While it does not have insurance, it comes with £60 of extended liability for free.
With Parcel2Go, you can ship the same package via UPS to arrive the next day for £7.63. It comes with £50 free cover if your parcel is lost or damaged.
Always be careful when choosing a parcel broker as you may not be covered if your package goes missing. As you are going through a third party, it is also more difficult to find out what went wrong if your parcel goes missing.
Tips on sending parcels
Make sure the address and the postcode are correct and are attached securely or written on the side of the packaging.
If parcels aren’t packaged properly, they can fall apart and the contents can be lost, so make sure everything is taped up securely.
Pick the right service - The dimensions and weight are important as if you choose a 1kg service at a low cost, then send a 2kg parcel, the courier may charge you the difference and an admin charge.
Insurance - Taking out insurance for parcels will cover you for any valuable items. Be careful though, as some items such as cameras may be excluded.
Evidence - It also makes sense to keep evidence of what you have sent so that you can claim compensation if necessary. Receipts and photos can help to prove what you have lost if your parcel goes missing or is damaged.
“You start to wonder what you can send – and get cover for it”
Hannah Nemeth, Moneywise’s Fight for Your Rights consumer champion, receives a lot of complaints about missing or damaged parcels in themailbox.
Her biggest bugbear is that consumers can take out insurance and send prohibited items – only to be told that they can’t make a claim when their item is lost or stolen.
“Quite a few complaints that come through to me are about sending items that are on a courier’s list of excluded items – but these are not flagged up very well on the booking page.
“For instance, Hermes has a small line and link at the bottom of the page, saying: ‘There are a few things we can’t carry. Check your item is not on the list’ – but many people will simply not bother checking the list – and when you do it is an illustration of the main prohibited items but there is another link to the full list.
“It’s surprising the number of items couriers list as ‘no compensation’ or prohibited. These range from items that you can send at your own risk such as musical instruments and furniture to prohibited items, such as perfume and aftershave. You start to wonder what you can actually send – and get covered by insurance.”