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Shoppers will spend two and a half hours sorting out a delivery problem this Christmas

7 December 2016

Consumers could lose up to £30 per failed delivery

People whose delivery is late, turns up broken or doesn't arrive at all spend on average two and a half hour sorting out the problem, reveals Citizens Advice.

With the busiest shopping period of the year in full swing the national charity’s latest consumer advice trends report reveals people experienced 4.8 million delivery problems in 2015/16.

Not only did consumers have to deal with the consequences of items arriving damaged or going missing, they also spent 11.8 million hours trying to resolve the problem - equivalent to just under two and a half hours per delivery.

And customers who didn’t manage to get compensation were left £148 million out of pocket - £30 per parcel - due to damaged/loss of goods, hours wasted and time away from work.

Citizens Advice is preparing for a rise in people seeking help for problems with deliveries. This time last year there was a 32% increase calls about this issue (between October and December 2015).  And a 60% spike in people getting online help on 18 December - as they try to track gifts down before Christmas.

As many as 390 million parcels will be handled by parcel companies and Royal Mail between November and December this year.   

The consumer advice trends study also includes analysis of more than 2000 calls made to Citizens Advice about deliveries in the last 12 months and identifies the most common problems as:

  • Difficulty getting through to the parcel company to find out where their parcel is

  • Not knowing who is responsible for sorting out the problem

  • Unexpected handling fees when receiving a parcel from outside EU

  • Confusion about getting compensation when parcels are lost or damaged

The charity is advising consumers that it is the responsibility of retailers to sort out the delivery problem and is calling on businesses to uphold people’s rights.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Shopping online should make people’s lives easier - but not if their items turn up damaged or don’t arrive at all.

“We’re expecting more people to seek our help over the festive season as consumers try to track down gifts or look to get compensation for items that are broken or never arrive. 

“It’s really important people know that if an item they’ve ordered doesn’t turn up - or if there is a problem with it - it is for the retailer to sort out.  Businesses also need to make sure they are upholding people’s rights by looking into delivery problems themselves instead of passing customers onto the parcel companies.

“There are plenty of things families need and want to do at this time of year - but chasing deliveries shouldn’t be one of them.”

Cases reported to Citizens Advice include:

A man who was passed from pillar to post as he tried to sort out a damaged parcel that was misdelivered.  He had spent time and money contacting the both the retailer and parcel operator but was still unclear about his rights to a refund.

One person sought help from Citizens Advice after they couldn’t get compensation for a damaged delivery.  The laptop they sold to someone online arrived damaged but, unbeknown to them, the insurance they bought to protect against any problems didn’t cover the cost of such an item.

A caller was hit with unexpected handling fees after buying a phone from China. She had an invoice from customs and a £20 administration fee, she had ordered from outside the EU before but hadn’t been charged as much.

Tips on dealing with delivery problems

  • Bought something online and it hasn’t arrived?

Get in touch with the company you bought the item from if it doesn’t arrive when you expect it to - it’s their job to make sure the item is delivered to you. They should chase the parcel delivery company and find out where it is.

If your item went missing after being delivered to a place you didn’t agree to, the retailer should replace it or refund you.

Citizens Advice has a template letter you can use to write to the company.

  • Worried your gift will get lost or damaged?

If you’re posting a gift, keep hold of the receipt  so you can claim compensation for the item if anything goes wrong. You’ll also need proof that you sent it which you can get from the Post Office or postal delivery company.  

If you plan to send anything valuable use an insured service like Royal Mail’s Special Delivery or shop around for another postal service. Their terms and conditions will explain what is and isn’t covered.

  • What if your post is lost?

Your post might arrive late if it was sent over a public holiday, or because of bad weather. If your item arrives 3 or more working days after it’s due (or 24 hours for Special Delivery, guaranteed 1pm service) you can claim compensation for the delay.

If it doesn’t turn up after 10 working working days (5 days for Special Delivery) you can claim compensation for loss.

If you’re expecting something to be delivered by a courier service you should check their website - many couriers have online tracking services.

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.