What are my rights if my parcel is late, damaged or missing this Christmas?
Many of us are likely to be tracking a much-needed parcel in the next few days in the race to finish the Christmas shopping.
But what happens when that package is either late, damaged or missing and how should you complain?
Your parcel is later than it's stated delivery time
How often do we place an order for something without being entirely sure when it will arrive?
It's not uncommon with some purchases to be given an estimated delivery time, often because they are using a third party firm where they have no control over staffing, arrangements or shipping times – although it is worth nothing that anything you order should arrive within 30 days unless otherwise stated when you checked out.
However, if you've paid extra for next-day delivery because you need something urgently or you've been told a larger item such as an appliance is coming on a certain date or within a time frame that requires you to be home to receive it, then you may have a little bit more luck complaining if the arrangements go awry.
When your parcel is later than its detailed delivery time your first port of call should always be with the company you ordered from as your contract is with them rather than the firm it has subsequently instructed to deliver it. Depending on the shipping arrangements you selected when you purchased – and whether it was an estimated time or a clearly defined slot – will dictate the likely outcome and the amount of compensation, if any, you could receive.
Often companies have a policy that might mean they will refund you the delivery costs if the parcel was late or they might offer you some alternative compensation if you've incurred any extra cost because of that delay such as needing to buy a replacement because the original package didn't turn up when you were told it would.
If you have paid extra for a special delivery to ensure the item arrives on time and it has arrived later than agreed, you stand the greatest chance of claiming back the additional cost because the service that you bought and paid for wasn't delivered.
However, this all depends on the individual company’s policy – and that of any delivery firm it may have been using – and it is perhaps worth finding these terms and conditions before making your complaint.
Jonathon Sabinsky, head of communications at thinkmoney.co.uk, says: “Waiting for a parcel can be frustrating, especially with the vague timelines given by the delivery company. We can end up waiting in the house all day for a parcel only for it not to turn up which can be annoying as well as disappointing.”
“In the run-up to Christmas, it’s so important to know your rights when it comes to a parcel deliveries. You should always contact the seller to see what reimbursement is available for you. After all, if you have paid for a service, whether it is standard or next day delivery, you expect to receive it."
There will be occasions however when you find you won't be entitled to a compensation claim.
Royal Mail is among the firms, for example, to clearly detail when it doesn't pay out compensation for delays. Reasons can include delivering parcels that were not correctly addressed or used the right postcode, where the delay was caused by issues outside of its control such as severe weather, where an item is undeliverable to the specified address or where the postage paid was insufficient. You can read more about that policy here.
If your parcel is damaged
Pandemic or no pandemic – we all know how convenient online shopping has become in recent years but one of its biggest downsides is not walking away with the goods or gift in your hands immediately after handing over your money.
If your order arrives damaged you should get in contact with the seller as soon as possible as they are responsible for the condition of the items when you receive them. Hermes is among the delivery companies to make it clear that complaints about lost or damaged items must be made by its customer who sent the package.
Take photos of the damage so that you have your own record and put this in writing, together with the evidence – and ideally send your complaint in an email. While there is an awful lot on our to-do lists at Christmas, it is recommended that you act as quickly as you can after getting your parcel to help show that you were not responsible for damaging it after it arrived.
If the seller asks you to return the item as part of the condition of a refund then you should get clarification that any further damage caused in sending it back won't be your responsibility and that the cost of sending it back is to be covered by them. Under the Consumer Rights Act, the seller should cover any cost to return goods that have been damaged or are faulty.
Alternatively, if the retailer has a store near you, you can suggest taking the goods back there but it it worth getting confirmation the staff there will be able to resolve the issue when you arrive before you find you've made a wasted journey.
For anyone tasked with sending a parcel this year it is worth noting that consumer organisation Which? advises those charged with posting packages take out sufficient cover, if on offer, to insure against the potential for loss or damage.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 items you order should be delivered within 30 days unless you have agreed otherwise on an earlier date and you can read more about that here.
To make any complaint about a missing parcel you'll first need to speak to the seller but if you want to simply track the whereabouts of your package you can contact the courier yourself if you've been provided with delivery or tracking details.
If the parcel is going to be later than the delivery time specified you can decide whether you want to request a refund – providing it was due to be delivered on time when you actually ordered it.
If your parcel doesn’t arrive after 30 days and you're told it’s lost in transit, your next step should be to get in contact with the retailer you bought from. This is, just like delayed parcels, because it’s the retailer that you have a contract with and not the delivery firm.
Because the missing item breach's the contract you took out with the seller when you bought it, your consumer rights, says money.co.uk, come swiftly into effect so this means you can either ask for a full refund or if required, for the parcel to be delivered again within a specified time frame, which could be another 30 days.
For anyone struggling to organise their complaint, Citizens Advice offer template letters on its website that can help here.
If you're not satisfied with the company's response you can escalate the issue and seek advice from among others, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards or your bank or credit card company. Learn more here about how to do that.
Claims and your credit card
Using your credit card when buying goods or services can often offer you an added layer of protection when shopping online. If you're struggling to claim a refund or replacement parcel from the company you bought from you might be covered by your credit card provider, if that's the payment method you used, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
For this to apply, you would have had to pay for all or a proportion of the goods on your credit card and the order worth at least £100.
Section 75 means that your credit card provider is jointly responsible for anything that goes wrong with a purchase that you make and this can cover goods that that either never arrive or are found to be faulty when they do. You can make a claim by contacting your credit card company, and it’s best to ask in writing so that you have some form of paper or email trail of your request.
Mr Sabinsky explained: “In the run-up to Christmas, more of us are turning to online shopping to buy our loved ones the perfect Christmas present. So when it arrives broken or doesn't arrive at all, it can be disheartening.
“By knowing your rights for a damaged or missing parcel it can be a little silver lining to the bad luck you’ve endured."