How to complain if your parcel was left with a neighbour who denies having it

Whether you have any legal rights in this instance will depend on the delivery instructions you did or didn't give at the time of purchase.

In summary

  • Regardless of any issues which may be the fault of the courier, it is ultimately the retailer’s responsibility to ensure the fulfilment of your order.
  • The Consumer Rights Act says the retailer is responsible for the goods until they are received by you, or by someone else you have nominated to receive them on your behalf - such as a neighbour.
  • But, if you nominated a safe place or neighbour, this will be interpreted as the parcel having being delivered to you.

1 Check the retailer’s T&C

Before you complain, read the retailer's terms and conditions (T&Cs) and delivery information carefully.

Does it say anywhere that items may be left with a neighbour or in a safe place unless you specifically say that you're not happy with that arrangement?

By agreeing to the retailer's T&Cs when placing your order, you could be agreeing to these arrangements without realising it.

If you're particularly concerned that a parcel could be left with a neighbour you don’t know or get on with, inform the retailer at the outset next time you make an order. 

This will make it easier to complain if there's a subsequent problem with a delivery.

2 Check your account details

Check whether your account details specify a safe place or dedicated neighbour that the courier employed by the retailer could leave your parcel with in the event you are not in.

Does your account state that your dedicated neighbour is Charlie who lives in the flat next door, for example?

Your rights will depend on whether or not you specifically asked for your parcel to be left with a specific neighbour or not.

See our guide to complain if your parcel was left somewhere or stolen, if your account specifies a safe place your parcel can be left at.

3 If you left specific delivery instructions

If you gave instructions for your parcel to be left with a specific neighbour and the parcel is delivered to them, the retailer is not responsible if something goes wrong.

In this instance we would recommend contacting our Which? Legal team to speak to an adviser for tailored advice on what action you should take.

If you agree more generally that your parcel can be left with a neighbour without specifying which one, then in practice you’ve said you are happy for anyone 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 goods 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.

4 Nominate a neighbour scheme

In 2015, Royal Mail introduced its '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.

5 Who is considered a neighbour?

There’s no legal definition of a 'neighbour', but dictionary definitions suggest that it's someone who lives very close to you (Cambridge Dictionary) or someone who lives next door or very close to you (Oxford Dictionary).

So if your parcel is left with someone 10 doors away, you could argue that by definition, a neighbour is not someone that lives this far away.

In this instance you could argue that delivery has not taken place and that the retailer is in breach of contract.

6 If your parcel was left with a neighbour and you didn’t agree to it

If your parcel is left with a neighbour without giving instructions to do so, you can argue that the contract said the goods were to be delivered to the address specified, and that by leaving them at a different address the company is in breach of contract.

You could also argue this if, for example, you live at 5 Friendly Street and agreed that your parcel could be left with 7 Friendly Street, but it was left with a different neighbour.

7 Contact the retailer

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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

If your goods were left with a neighbour you didn’t agree to and your parcel has gone missing, contact the retailer seller and explain that you haven’t received the goods you ordered. 

The retailer may argue that their obligations ended when the goods were left.

But make the point that you didn't agree to the goods being left with that neighbour and that by not delivering them to you, the retailer is in breach of contract.

If the retailer tries to argue that the delivery driver failed to follow the delivery instructions given, explain that the retailer can’t escape responsibility by subcontracting some of their obligations to a third party.

You are contracted with the retailer for the delivery, not the delivery driver, therefore responsibility rests with the retailer.

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