In yesterday’s article, we looked at consumer rights in relation to delays on deliveries, but what rights do consumers have in situations where items simply don’t arrive, or orders are incorrect or damaged?
The way in which the process of deliveries is handled has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic to limit the amount of contact between the delivery driver and customer. These changes have included the removal of the requirement for a customer signature by many couriers when goods are delivered.
With this, there have been reports from several consumers about packages that do not arrive, or are signed for by another person, such as a neighbour and never passed on. In these circumstances, consumer rights legislation outlines what can be done to resolve most problems.
Recourse – Who is responsible?
When we deal with couriers and delivery companies employed by sellers and retailers, the automatic assumption may be that it is the courier who is responsible for missing or damaged packages. In accordance with the Consumer Rights Act, our contracts are with the retailer or seller, and the responsibility lies with them.
This responsibility however only extends until the goods are delivered to you, and limitations include delivery to safe places that you may have highlighted, or if you have selected a neighbour to accept the goods in your absence.
In any situation where there is an issue with delivery, a complaint should be made to the retailer or seller in the first instance as opposed to the delivery company or courier.
Delivery of the wrong item(s)
If your delivery contains the wrong items, then you have the right to a replacement. The Consumer Rights Act states that items must be ‘as described’. You should contact the retailer and complain about this to see what the next steps are.
You may be asked to return the items that have been delivered incorrectly to the retailer to resolve the issue. You should not have to pay the delivery costs for returning the incorrect item.
Packages that have been tampered with / damaged
Parcels that have the appearance of tampering (i.e. ripped seals on boxes, boxes open on delivery) can be refused at the point of delivery. If you accept the items despite signs of damage, even if terms and conditions (or the presence of a signature) state that this confirms receipt in good condition, you still have rights.
You can circumvent the possibility for any disputes over responsibility for damage by including the proviso ‘received but not inspected’ when signing for or receiving a delivery of goods.
If you have already accepted the item, you should ensure that you gather evidence in the form of photographs of the damage. You should contact the seller directly through email or in writing to complain about the damage.
If the retailer claims that the damage was made by you after the delivery was received, then the burden of proof lies with them for the first six months after you took delivery of the goods. If this is the case, they must prove that the damage was your fault.
Goods that are damaged in transit mean that a faulty goods claim can be made with the retailer. In this instance, consumer rights law states that you should receive a repair, replacement, or a refund for the order.
Costs and practicalities of returns
The seller may request that you return damaged or faulty goods. In this instance, the cost of postage should not be your responsibility.
The Consumer Rights Act ensures that sellers pay for the return of faulty or damaged goods and means that you should be reimbursed for delivery costs.
If you are asked to return the goods, you should enquire with the retailer to ensure that they will be insured against further damage that may occur in transit. If they are not willing to do this, you should check if they will cover the cost of this insurance if you purchase it yourself from the delivery company used for returns.
The situation is the same when deliveries are stolen as when they do not show up. A complaint should be made to the retailer or seller, as your contract is with them. If you gave instructions to the retailer about leaving items in a specific place, or delivered to a neighbour in your absence, then it may be more difficult to seek recourse with the retailer.
If you believe that items have been stolen, you should report this to the police, as this is theft, which is a crime. You should provide as much evidence to the police as possible. Reporting this could help when stating your case for a refund from the retailer.
Jason contacted consumeradvice.scot in relation to a delivery that went missing.
He recently moved into a new apartment in a large complex, with his property on the fifth floor and had been eagerly awaiting the delivery of items ordered online.
“I heard a buzz at the door saying that the delivery driver was at the front door to the building. I allowed him access, but he never appeared at my own door. I received an email from the company saying that the item had been delivered, but I had not received it.”
There was no signature given for the items due to new health and safety precautions and after making a complaint to the retailer directly, Jason was offered a replacement of the item.
“It was annoying to think that either the package hadn’t been delivered by the driver at all or had been left with a neighbour who had potentially stolen my property. That isn’t a nice feeling to have, especially after just moving into a new building”.
Jason is not alone in his frustration, with many consumers experiencing problems with deliveries during the pandemic.
The positive outcome here is that when things do go wrong, many retailers are willing to set things straight as quickly as possible with refunds or replacement goods.
When things go wrong, remember –
- Contact the retailer about the issue straight away – You have a contract with them, and they should help you to resolve the issue.
- Gather evidence – Remember to take photographs of damaged items and packages that have been tampered with. This can help to strengthen your case for a refund or replacement.
- Mark all deliveries as ‘received but not inspected’ when signing for them – This can help if there is damage to items when you inspect them further.
- Special Places / Nominated neighbours – Remember to ensure that special places for delivery are secure and that if you do ask a neighbour to sign for items that you trust them. It may be harder to resolve problems with deliveries in these circumstances.
If you have concerns about problematic deliveries, or any other consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
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