Tara | Edited by Johanna
Updated December 2017
Waiting in for a parcel delivery is akin to watching paint dry – but you may have the law on your side if your delivery's running late. We explain what happens if your parcel is delayed and whether or not you can get compensation.
I’m waiting for a parcel but the company has gone bust, how can I get my delivery? Well, it depends on the situation. Often, as happened in December 2014 when City Link went into administration, the firm may still hold the parcel for you at its depot, but this means you'll need to collect it yourself.
If it won't deliver the item or you can't get to the depot remember your contract is with the retailer you bought the item from, not the delivery firm.
The retailer is responsible for either re-arranging delivery or giving you a full refund. Also ask for any delivery charges back from the retailer if you had to collect it yourself.
And if you paid for some form of express delivery and you didn't get it in the promised time-frame, also claim that back.
Arghhhhh, my parcel hasn't arrived – how do I chase up the delivery? It's important to understand your contract is with the retailer, not the delivery company. But while it's the retailer you will need to deal with in order to get compensation (more on that below), if your parcel is late then in the first instance you may be best off contacting the courier first.
Often delivery companies will have a customer service helpline or even online tracking facilities to help you find out where your delivery's got to. So if you know who's delivering your item it's worth trying them first.
If that doesn't work, then go to the retailer. Unless you paid directly for the delivery with a parcel firm, then it's the store that owes you a duty of care. Don’t let it fob you off – it’s the one you paid and it chose to sub-contract out the delivery.
It's so annoying having to wait – what rights have I got? Good question. It all depends on how you ordered the item.
If you ordered something online, there are laws to protect you. These laws – called the Consumer Contracts Regulations – came into effect in June 2014, and they apply to items bought online, over the phone or by post.
They state you’ve got 14 days after you receive a package to notify the seller that you have changed your mind, regardless of whether it's faulty or not. You then have a further 14 days to send back the item. It must be sent back unopened and in its original packaging.
Therefore if your parcel doesn’t arrive in time, you’ve the lukewarm comfort that you can at least send it back and get a refund. This also includes ‘Click & Collect’ orders, where you order the item online and pick it up from a local store (such as a Post Office), as technically the item is an online order.
But there are some items that aren't covered by these rules, such as personalised or perishable items (like flowers and fresh food).
Unfortunately you have fewer rights if you buy something in store and request it for delivery - you're not by law entitled to a refund (unless the item's faulty). Saying that, most shops have a 'goodwill' returns policy, which means you can return an item and exchange it, get a refund or a credit note.
If the shop doesn't have a returns policy then legally you can only return faulty items. Your full rights when buying goods are explained in our Consumer Rights guide.
I'm still waiting on a delivery but now it's too late. Can I cancel my order? If the delivery has taken more than 30 calendar days then you can legally cancel the contract and get a refund, regardless of whether the item was bought online or in store.
If you've waited less than 30 days, your rights depends on how you bought the item.
If you ordered it online then it may be possible to cancel the item before it arrives – most stores 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 will be able to cancel your delivery. In that case you may have to wait until it arrives and return it to get a refund. Again, this rule doesn't apply to personalised or perishable items.
If you ordered in store, unless the retailer said it would arrive by a specific date, it's difficult.
But there's a trick you can use - when ordering you can ask the shop to agree that ‘time is of the essence’, as this massively enhances your rights. If it then doesn't deliver by the deadline you've set, you will be legally entitled to cancel your contract and demand any linked credit agreement is annulled, or the deposit to be refunded. Or if you rather, you can chose to continue but at a lower price.
If you don't ask the shop to agree to this, then you’re taking a risk that it won’t turn up in time. Full info in the Failed Delivery guide.
I've sent my package back – how long do I have to wait for my refund? Shops can only process a refund once an item's back in their hands, so it depends how long it takes to reach them. Once they've received it, they have to process your refund within 14 days.
What about postage? With online orders the refund should also include the cost of the postage that you paid for getting the item delivered, as long as you chose the least expensive and most common delivery method.
If you paid for a more expensive delivery option, you’ll only get a refund of the cost of the least expensive delivery charge. You may have to ask for a refund on the delivery charge as most shops won't include this as standard – so chase if you don't get it.
You will also have to pay for the cost of sending the package back, unless the seller doesn't say this in its T&Cs, or the goods were faulty. Some shops, eg, Debenhams and ASOS, offer free returns on orders – but this is typically only if you've paid for a faster delivery method. If you've bought from a high street shop's website you can often return items in store as well.
If you bought an item in store and had it delivered then it's different and it will be subject to the shops' return policy - so it's best to check with them directly.
My purchase was delayed but I want to keep it – can I get compensation? By law, an item ONLY needs to be delivered within 30 days to be seen as delivered on time.
In rare circumstances, you may be able to claim compensation if you’ve lost out because of a delayed delivery within that time period. But this is only if you’ve had to take extra time off work to be home for the redelivery. This is under the rules of ‘consequential loss’ - for more info on this, a free template letter and help, see our Failed Delivery guide.
OK, but can I at least get a refund on the delivery charge? If the shop didn’t specify a delivery date, as long as the parcel arrived within 30 days it's technically not late (even though it's taken ages) so you won't be able to get a refund on the delivery charge.
However, if you paid for express delivery, or extra for a package to arrive on a specific day, then you should ask for a refund on the charge for the delivery. Be aware that you'll only get back the difference between the price of the lowest, or most common, delivery option, and the more expensive option you chose.
What happens if my parcel never arrives? First of all complain to the retailer - it should be able to refund you the full amount. If that doesn't work, and you've paid for even a proportion of the cost by credit card, then you could try to claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act as long as the item is worth at least £100 and under £30,000. For more information, read our Section 75 guide.
Where Section 75 doesn't apply, there's another rule that you may be able to fall back on, if you've used a debit card or paid for an item worth less than £100 on a credit card. It's called chargeback, and it allows the card provider to reverse a payment you've made to a retailer if they agree you've a legitimate complaint. See the full Chargeback guide.
How can I complain? Check the shop's website for details on how to contact it. Many shops use expensive 0845 and 0870 numbers – avoid them by using a freephone number. Find out how in Say No To 0870.
If it’s a busy time of the year, for example Christmas, then you may find it hard to get hold of the retailer on the phone or via email. You could try contacting it on social media, via Twitter or on its Facebook page, as responses are often quicker. Don't worry, you don't need to be a social media god to get an answer – companies have dedicated staff who will reply to your tweet or Facebook post.
Free tool if you’re having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it to the relevant ombudsman or regulator.
The tool covers more than 600 shops and retailers, including supermarkets, big brands such as Ikea and B&Q and online voucher sites such as Groupon.