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Two thirds of online shoppers suffer problems with parcel delivery

16 June 2017

Two in three people (69%) who shop online have had parcels lost, damaged or turn up late in the last year, according to new research by Citizens Advice.

 As summer sales season gets underway, Citizens Advice says problems with late deliveries affect online shoppers the most - including those who paid for a premium service guaranteeing next day or a named day delivery.

 Other common issues include parcels being left in unsecure locations, such as bins, and  unnecessary failed deliveries - where people waited at home for a parcel, only to receive a note saying they’d missed it.

 A survey of over 2,000 online shoppers carried out in December 2016 reveals:

  • 38% of people have had a parcel arrive late -  including more than one in ten (16%)  who paid for premium delivery service.

  • More than 1 in 10 have received damaged items.

  • More than 1 in 5 had a parcel go missing

  • 28% had a parcel left in an unsecure location

  • 28% were at home but had a note through the door saying the parcel couldn’t be delivered.

A new report ‘Parcel delivery: Delivery services in the online shopping market’ published by the charity today, highlights the problems people face resolving their delivery complaints.

More than half of people (54%) don’t take any action if their parcel is late - such as complaining or asking for a refund. Meanwhile a third of consumers who receive a damaged parcel don’t take action.  For those that did try to complain, over 40% ran into problems - such as difficulty contacting the retailer or delivery company on the phone.

The research also found that half of consumers were unsure about who was responsible for the delivery of their parcel in the first place.

Citizens Advice’s consumer service helps people with around 2,600 parcel delivery issues each year.  In 2016, over 23,000 people also visited the charity’s website seeking help for parcel problems.

A common issue reported to Citizens Advice was parcels that had been left in rubbish bins.

One woman who came to Citizens Advice for help was on holiday when her parcel was left in a bin. When she returned the bin had been emptied and the parcel gone. When she tried to complain to the retailer she was told it was not their responsibility.  

Another man ordered a car part online which was left in a bin that was emptied by the time he got home from work. He complained to the sender but they said it wasn’t their fault.

Citizens Advice suggests a number of measures to make it easier for consumers to sort out their delivery problems, including:

  • Asking retailers and parcel firms to explain more clearly on their websites what customers’ delivery rights are.

  • Set up a quality mark scheme for parcel delivery firms that retailers could use to judge which offer the best service to their customers.

 Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Online shopping should be quick and convenient -  but problems with delivery create unwanted hassle.

“Waiting at home for an item that doesn’t arrive is frustrating and time consuming - but our research shows many people aren’t taking action to resolve delivery issues, and others are running into problems if they do.

“Retailers are responsible for getting the parcel to the customer - and making this clearer to customers at the checkout could help them sort out problems quicker if deliveries go astray.”

How to solve online delivery problems

Your parcel doesn’t arrive when you expected it to

 Standard delivery: If you’re worried an item hasn’t arrived by the date agreed on your order, contact the retailer to find out where it is.The retailer is responsible for getting orders delivered to you, not the parcel company.If you didn’t agree a specific delivery date, it should arrive within 30 days of when you ordered it. You can cancel the order and get a full refund if it doesn’t arrive after 30 days.

 Premium delivery: You can claim a refund for some of the cost of delivery. Legally, retailers only need to refund the cost of the cheapest delivery option - so if you paid for a premium ‘next day’ or ‘named day’ service, you may not get all your money back.

 Your parcel is damaged

 It is the retailer’s responsibility to make sure items arrive  in good condition. Contact them about the damage and they will either offer to send you a new item or  refund you.

Someone was waiting at home for the parcel, but a note said it couldn’t be delivered

Contact the parcel firm to arrange a redelivery, or alternatively if you don’t want it any more you can cancel the order if it’s been less than 14 days since you bought it and get a refund.  Although legally you’re not entitled to compensation in this situation it's worth complaining to the delivery firm and retailer - they will value your feedback and may offer you a goodwill gesture.

Your parcel was left in an unsecure location

If you get a note saying your parcel has been left in a certain location but it isn’t there, the retailer should replace it or give you your money back. If you receive the item but aren’t happy with where it was left, complain to both the retailer and delivery firm. Although not legally obliged, they may offer you some sort of compensation as a goodwill gesture.

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice commissioned survey of 2,005 online shoppers conducted by Europe Economics and carried out in December 2016.
  2. An analysis of the diaries of 524 online shoppers conducted by Verve was carried out in February and March 2017.
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.