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Consumer Rights.

My delivery or online order hasn't arrived, what can I do?

If you buy something online, from a catalogue or over the phone that requires home delivery and it arrives late or doesn't turn up at all, don't worry - you've got rights.
Which?Editorial team
My delivery or online order hasn't arrived, what can I do?

Missing or late delivery? Complain to the retailer 

You should complain to the retailer as it is responsible for undelivered goods, not the courier.

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

Legally, your contract is with the retailer and the Consumer Rights Act makes the retailer responsible for the good condition and safe delivery of your order.  

Here are six must-know consumer rights if your delivery hasn’t gone to plan:

  1. If your order is late, missing or has turned up damaged we recommend that you complain to the retailer - even if you think it’s down to a poor service from the courier, because your contract is with the retailer.
  2. If you paid extra for special delivery and your order arrived later than agreed you can claim back the extra delivery cost as the service wasn’t delivered.
  3. Be aware if you give permission for your delivery to be left in a specified safe place or received by a nominated neighbour and something goes wrong, you will still be considered to have received the delivery.  Think very carefully about those options when you’re making a purchase.
  4. If your order arrives damaged or faulty, you have a right to refuse it and get a refund, repair or replacement. Understand your next steps if your goods arrive damaged in the post.
  5. Your delivery must be made without undue delay and within 30 days from the point of purchase unless you and the retailer agree otherwise, this is stipulated by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  6. You can also cancel an order for most items ‘bought at a distance’ - for example, online, over the phone or a mail order catalogue.

Make a delivery complaint

If your delivery is late, missing or damaged we can help you make a complaint, and get a definite delivery date or a refund.

Start your letter

Cancel your order

If you’re tired of waiting for an online order, you can exercise your right to cancel. 

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations you can cancel orders for most goods bought online the moment you place your order until 14 days from the day you receive your goods, and get a full refund.

There are some items where you don't get a right to cancel. See our step-by-step guide to cancel your online order.

My order is late and I want a refund or replacement

If you made it clear to the retailer at the time you ordered that you needed it by a certain date and it’s late (eg by Christmas or next-day delivery), or if it was obvious to the retailer that delivery by a certain date was essential, you can treat the contract as at an end and claim a refund.

For example, you might have contacted the retailer by email after purchasing a necklace to let them know you’ve bought it for a friend’s birthday. In the email you informed them of the birthday date and importance of receiving the parcel on time.

When you contact the retailer to complain about the late parcel and request a refund, make your circumstances clear.

The more proof you have that you made it clear that delivery was essential, or that it should have been obvious, the better.

But if it wasn’t clear to the retailer at the point of purchase, you need to give them another opportunity to deliver your order.

Explain to the retailer that the delivery is late, and suggest a reasonable date for re-delivery. If you offer a short deadline because there's a pressing reason why you need it quickly, you should explain this in as much detail as possible. Use our template letter to make a late delivery complaint.

If the retailer fails to deliver the goods by the new deadline, then you can treat the contract as at an end and ask for a refund.

My delivery isn’t where I was told it had been left

If your parcel was left with a neighbour who denies having it, or has vanished from your doorstep or a safe place your rights will depend on whether you gave permission for your order to be left there.

Check your account details. Does your account specify delivery instructions like a safe place or dedicated neighbour where your order can be left if you’re not in? Your next steps will depend on it.

If you didn’t provide delivery instructions, the retailer has failed to fulfil its contract with you can deliver your order, it is legally bound to refund or replace your order.

If you left specific delivery instructions for your parcel to be left with a nominated neighbour or a specified safe place and the parcel is delivered, the retailer is not responsible if something then goes wrong (eg it's missing when you go to collect it).

Even if you agree more generally that your parcel can be left with a neighbour or safe place without specifying in detail, then in practice you’ve said you are happy for anyone or anywhere in close proximity to your home to accept delivery on your behalf.

Did you give the courier instructions later on? If the courier contacted you separately to ask if your parcel could be left in a safe place or with a neighbour and you gave them specific instructions, this would mean you are agreeing for your order to be delivered there.

We urge caution when agreeing to a safe place or neighbour on your online account or through communication with the courier, as this will water down your consumer rights.

Key Information

Nominate a neighbour

Royal Mail operates a 'Nominate a Neighbour' scheme. This means that when you go to your local delivery office to collect a parcel you can fill out a form and designate a preferred neighbour that Royal Mail can deliver to if you're not at home.  

But be aware that if you give permission for your parcel to be left with a specific neighbour and the parcel goes missing after it has been delivered, the retailer is not responsible.

My delivery has been opened and tampered with

If you find a tampered parcel in an unexpected place or it’s handed over to you in a tampered state, you can complain to the retailer and ask for a refund or replacement.

If your parcel looks like it’s been tampered with - for example, you can see that the sticky tape has been removed and resealed, don’t open it immediately.

You may be tempted to open it quickly to check if your contents are inside, but it’s important to resist this urge.

Before opening it, take photos of the box at every angle, including a close-up shot of the areas where it clearly looks like it’s been opened and resealed.

Open up the parcel and examine the contents - check closely to see that your full order is there. Take pictures of the contents, especially if something is missing or has been replaced.

My delivery has been stolen

If your delivery is left somewhere like your doorstep – without your permission to do so – and is then stolen, the retailer is in breach of contract and it needs to replace and redeliver your item, or give you a refund.

Although the retailer may say that the goods were taken to the address specified by you in your order, you can argue that this means handing it over to you or to someone else at the address.

If you gave specific delivery instructions that were followed, you might have a trickier time arguing your case because your delivery was performed as agreed - but speak to the retailer anyway and ask for a replacement to be sent out.

If you think that someone has stolen your delivery, regardless of whether you gave permission for the courier to leave it in a safe place or with a neighbour, it is a crime.

Contact your local police and provide them with your photographic evidence and any correspondence with the retailer. The retailer should cooperate with any police investigation.

Filing a police report won't get you a replacement or refund, but it can help to strengthen your claim and it’s important to report crime.