Black Friday shoppers who thought they'd bagged themselves a bargain have criticised retailers after paying for orders that were later cancelled or delayed because items were out of stock. You can get a refund if you've been affected but may struggle to re-order items at the same discounted price.
MoneySavingExpert.com has heard from scores of disgruntled online shoppers who ordered various items during the annual shopping bonanza last Friday (25 November) but were left disappointed when they were told over the weekend their orders had been affected by a lack of supply.
The issue appears to be twofold, with some customers being informed their orders have been cancelled outright, and others that their orders have been delayed.
If you've been caught up in the cancellation chaos, you should expect to receive an automatic refund in the coming days. If your order has been delayed and you don't want to wait, you'll have to actively claim a refund by contacting the retailer.
However, for re-orders at a later date, what is less clear-cut is whether or not you'll be able to get it at the same discounted price.
Customers have reported cancelled and delayed orders at a wide range of retailers and the approach to handling re-orders is likely to differ. While shops are not obliged to offer previous reductions on new orders, we understand that some companies will honour Black Friday discount offers.
Check out our Cheap Online Shopping guide for full info on how to bag a bargain.
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Bargain hunters angry about being charged for out-of-stock items
A number of baffled bargain hunters have used social media to question why they were able to purchase items that later turned out to be out of stock:
Love how @curryspcworld lets you order and pay for an item then tell you it'll be despatched "when stock is available". Bit misleading, no?— Sarah Knight (@_allofmyflaws) November 26, 2016
@Selfridges paid for something with discount online then you cancelled my order this morning and it's now out of stock. Thanks a lot.
— JT (@jt_mot2016) November 26, 2016
@Tesco. Order iPad Black Friday deal. 2hrs later cancelled without reason. Cust servcs say its out of stock still for sale at higher price !
— Tom Jobe (@tom_jobe) November 25, 2016
@NewLookFashion I have received a message saying my order is out of stock even tho I ordered this on 25/11 and were in stock! Angry!
— murphybcxx (@BethMurphy12) November 28, 2016
Text from @Argos_Online to say order is ready to collect, get there 'sorry your order was cancelled its out of stock'
— Danielle Hudson (@XdaniprincessX) November 27, 2016
@Argos_Online can someone please contact me. You have taken money from my account on an order that was out of stock. You still charged me?— Simone Bradford (@Sim1_86) November 25, 2016
We've also been contacted on Facebook and via email by customers who have been left disappointed and out of pocket after paying for items that were never dispatched.
Argos shopper Ian said: "Could you explain to me why Argos are allowed to take payments for goods they don't have in stock, tell people it's out for delivery and then send [a] text to people saying it's out of stock? Customers [are then] having to wait weeks to get [their] payment refunded for money that should not have been taken from them anyway.
"This is happening to hundreds, if not thousands, of people – just look on the Argos Facebook page. Something needs to be done about this."
I've been charged for an order that was cancelled because it was out of stock – how do I get a refund?
If you've been charged for an order that was later cancelled you should receive an automatic refund, although it may take a few days before the money shows up in your account.
One of the retailers implicated in the widespread cancellation of out-of-stock orders, Argos, told us that it had not actually taken money for cancelled orders and that customers' banks were holding the cash ahead of it being returned to various individual accounts in the coming days.
A spokesperson for Argos told us refunds would be automatic, but if you'd like to check the progress of your refund you can contact the Argos customer services team on 0845 640 2020.
The spokesperson said: "We are aware of a small number of instances where customer orders have been cancelled as the product was no longer available. We are investigating each of these individual cases and have contacted customers directly.
"Black Friday was a very busy day for us and we apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience caused. Any customers who are concerned about their orders can call our customers services team or chat to one of our advisers online via our help page."
Meanwhile, Tesco has vowed to provide discounted prices to any shoppers who have had their orders cancelled.
A spokesperson said: "Due to the popularity of our Black Friday event a very small number of customers experienced this issue. Impacted customers will have received an email explaining they will be refunded in two to five days."If the product has a higher price when back on sale any impacted customers can contact our customer engagement centre and get the product for the original sale price."
We've been in touch with all the retailers mentioned in the customers' tweets above. Once we hear back we'll update this story on how they'll be refunding customers.
When you place an order you agree to the company's terms and conditions (T&Cs), but the point at which an order is accepted (and a contract has been entered into) differs from retailer to retailer – in some cases it could be when you receive an order confirmation email, in others when the payment has been processed, and in some it could be once the order has been dispatched.
For more info on your Consumer Rights, check out our guide.
I've been charged for an order that was delayed because it was out of stock – can I get a refund?
If you've paid for an item that's been delayed and you're not prepared to wait then you could ask for a refund.
If the delivery is going to take more than 30 calendar days you can legally cancel the contract and get a refund, regardless of whether the item was bought online or in store. If you end up waiting less than 30 days, your rights depend on how you bought the item.
If you ordered it online then it may be possible to cancel the item before it arrives – most shops will have cancellation policies in their T&Cs, so check them or give the retailer a call to find out.
If an item has already been dispatched it's unlikely that you'll be able to cancel your delivery. In that case you may have to wait until it arrives and return it to get a refund.
However, it's worth noting that if you claim a refund on your delayed order you could be sacrificing the discounted Black Friday price, meaning you may well end up paying more if you end up buying the item elsewhere.
Check out our Parcel Delivery Rights guide for more info.
If I re-order my cancelled Black Friday item will it come with the same discount?
Unfortunately, because the initial orders were cancelled, there's no obligation on the retailers to offer the same discounts when items are back in stock – as any new orders represent a new contract between the customer and the retailer.
But as a gesture of goodwill some retailers have suggested they'll honour Black Friday discounts when items are re-ordered once stock is replenished.
Argos has told us it will honour discounts on re-ordered items "on a case-by-case basis". However, to maximise you're chances of preserving your discount you should contact the customer services team to log your particular case.
We'll update this story when hear back from the other retailers.