How to complain if you receive damaged goods in the post

Don’t be fobbed off by a retailer if you received damaged goods in the post. Here’s the lowdown on how to complain and what to ask for.

Who is liable if my goods are damaged in transit?

If goods are delivered to you in a damaged condition, the Consumer Rights Act makes the retailer responsible for remedying the situation.

Retailer vs courier

Even if it was the courier who damaged your goods - for example, by squashing your parcel through the letterbox  - you should complain to the retailer, not the courier service.

This is because your contract is with the retailer, who you bought the goods from.

The Consumer Rights Act states that the retailer is responsible for the condition of the goods until they are delivered to you, so any damage or breakage en route is the responsibility of the them, not the courier.

Bear in mind that the retailer is only responsible until the goods are are delivered to you, your dedicated safe place or your nominated neighbour.

If anything goes wrong with your parcel and it was left with a neighbour or in a safe place that you nominated, your rights are diminished.

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Make a faulty goods complaint


You could be entitled to a repair, replacement or a refund even if the product is out of warranty, answer some simple questions and Which? can help you start your complaint for free

Start your letter

1 Contact the retailer with evidence of damage

As soon as you see there's a problem, let the retailer know and confirm any conversations in writing – we recommend doing this by email. If you have a camera handy, take photos of the damage straight away so that you have a full record of the problem.  

Acting quickly will ensure you retain all your rights provided by the Consumer Rights Act, in particular the right to reject an item. If you bought your goods before 1 October 2015, you have the same rights under the Sale of Goods Act.

Acting quickly also helps you avoid a situation where a seller might try to claim that the damage must have been caused by you.

If a retailer does try and pin blame on you for any damage, the onus is on the retailer to prove this within the first six months of you receiving your goods.

Whether you bought your goods online or arranged delivery in person when you were in store, you shouldn't be told to take up your damaged goods complaint with the courier company. Nor should you be told that you'll need to claim on the courier company's insurance.

If your goods are damaged during delivery, in the eyes of the law you have a faulty goods claim, and as such you have the right to a refund, repair or replacement. 

You can use this letter template to request damaged goods be repaired or replaced.

Courier service complaints

If you’re unhappy with the courier service, you could highlight this to the retailer when you make your complaint to them.

It’s best if the retailer deals with the courier company directly about your complaint, as it is the retailer who is employing the courier company to deliver the goods to you.

If you used a courier company to send something for you (eg you sent a parcel to a family member) and it arrived damaged, then you should make a complaint to the courier service as you have a contract with them to provide that service.

2 Returning a damaged item promptly

If you're at home when the delivery company arrives, you’ll usually be asked to sign to accept the delivery.

If you're asked to sign a card or electronic device that says you confirm that the goods are received in good condition, don’t worry, you won’t be signing your rights away.

The retailer can’t get you to waive your legal rights in this way.

If you can, it’s always a good idea to write on the card, or electronic device 'goods received but not inspected' to make your position clear.

Check the goods as quickly as you can and raise any issues as soon as possible. This will avoid problems later, for example, over whether you have 'rejected' goods quickly enough.

If there's time to contact the retailer to complain before the delivery driver leaves, explain the situation and ask if they want the damaged goods sent back with the driver right away.

This could save the inconvenience to you, and cost to the seller, of arranging a return at a later date.

If you didn’t discover the damage until later and you’ve contacted the retailer already to notify them of the damage, you’ll now need to arrange for how the goods will be returned. The retailer can either arrange for goods to be collected or may ask for you to post them back.

3 Confirm payment for returns

If the retailer asks you to return the items (on the basis that they will reimburse the costs), get confirmation that the goods will be insured against any further damage that could occur.

If this isn't the case, confirm with the retailer that they will cover the cost you incur in getting adequate cover from the delivery company you use to return the item.

Even if the retailer’s terms and conditions say that items are returned at the buyer's expense, this doesn't apply to items that are being returned due to being damaged, faulty, not as described or that are not fit for purpose.  

You shouldn’t bear the cost of returning goods because the goods have arrived damaged. The retailer should reimburse you the cost of the delivery if they ask you to return the items.

Under the Consumer Rights Act and its predecessor the Sale of Goods Act, the seller must pay for returning goods that are faulty or damaged.

4 Get your money back for missed timed deliveries

If you paid extra for a dedicated delivery time or date and your goods arrived damaged in the post, it reasonable to ask the retailer to refund you the extra  paid for  the dedicated delivery.

If you’ve decided that you no longer want the goods, you have rights to reject them and get a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act.

Your right to reject and get a full refund is dependant on you rejecting the damaged goods within 30 days of the date you bought your item.

If you are rejecting the item, you can ask to be refunded the full combined cost of standard and dedicated delivery.

If you are asking for the goods to be repaired or replaced, you can ask to be reimbursed for the extra cost incurred by selecting a dedicated delivery option over a standard delivery option.

However, you can’t ask for the standard delivery cost to be reimbursed if you’re asking for a repair or refund.

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