1 Make a note of where you found the parcel
The onus for safe delivery of your item - not just the packaging of the parcel - lies with the retailer.
So 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.
Be aware that the retailer is only responsible until the goods are delivered to you, your dedicated safe place or your nominated neighbour.
If you find your parcel has been tampered with, but it was left with an approved neighbour or in a safe place that you nominated, you’ll find it hard to make a claim because you gave the retailer or courier approval to leave your parcel there.
What are my rights when a parcel has been tampered with?
The Consumer Rights Act says that the retailer is responsible for the condition of the goods until you receive them, it's received by a nominated neighbour or anyone else you may have nominated to receive the goods on your behalf, or left in a specified safe place.
So if your goods were tampered with before you received them, you should complain to the retailer, not the courier. This is because your contract is with the retailer, who you bought the goods from.
2 Take photos of the tampered parcel
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 re-sealed.
Taking pictures - with date stamps - of the tampered box before you open it will strengthen your case with the retailer and provide evidence that you aren’t the one who’s tampered with it.
3 Take photos of the contents of the box
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 goods have been replaced with ones you did not order.
4 Send a written complaint to the retailer
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.
Act quickly to try and avoid a situation where the retailer might try to claim that the damage must have been caused or item replaced by you.
To speed up your complaint, make sure you include the following evidence in your written complaint to the retailer:
- Photos of the box unopened, with time and date stamp
- Photos of the contents, with time and date stamp
- A copy of your original order receipt or screengrab of your emailed e-receipt, if you ordered the item in-store
- A copy or screengrab of your order confirmation from the retailer, if you ordered the item online
- Your order number if this isn’t included on the receipt or e-receipt
- The tracking number provided by the courier
- Your letter clearly stating how you received the parcel
- Information on whether it was left somewhere without your permission
Explain what you would like to happen as a result of the complaint - for example, that you’d like a replacement or a refund.
5 Notify the police of the theft
If you think that someone has intercepted your item without your permission, this 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 with the retailer and it’s important to report the crime.
6 Make a Section 75 or chargeback claim
If you get no response from the retailer and you paid for an item costing more than £100 with a credit card, you can take your claim to the card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
if you paid by debit card, or on a credit card for an item costing less than £100, you can make a chargeback claim.
Chargeback is not enshrined in law, but it's part of Scheme Rules, which participating banks subscribe to.
Exact rules may vary between Visa, Maestro and American Express, so ask your bank for more information when you contact them.
7 Go to the small claims court
If the retailer is refusing to replace the stolen item, you may wish to consider a small claim for a valuable item.