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23 Sep 2020

'My return disappeared into a void' - four tips to get results when a retailer lets you down

What to do if your delivery has gone missing, your refund hasn't been paid or you're stuck with a faulty product

Many customers are complaining that retailers are failing to refund or resolve issues when orders go wrong.

At Which? we've heard from a number of customers who have faced difficulties with failed deliveries, late refunds and faulty products when shopping with several well-known high street retailers, including Currys PC World, Dorothy Perkins, House of Fraser and Sports Direct in recent weeks.

Online shopping has soared during the pandemic, but some customers have been left out of pocket for months after returns or deliveries disappeared , receiving little communication from the retailer.

If a retailer is refusing to refund or respond to you, follow our four tips for getting your problem solved.

Have you been let down and left out of pocket? Are your consumer rights being ignored? Get in touch with us: yourstory@which.co.uk

1. Radio silence? Try other channels

Jenny waited almost two months to get her money back from Dorothy Perkins.

'I'm pregnant and needed the £80 back to buy new maternity clothes,' she told us.

'I returned the items well within the returns period,' Jenny said. 'I arranged a home collection via courier option because we were shielding at the time and didn't think it was sensible to go to the post office.'

She tracked the parcel and could see it had reached the courier's warehouse, but still didn't hear anything from Dorothy Perkins. 'It was like my return disappeared into a void,' she recalled.

'I tried to contact Dorothy Perkins but there's no phone number or email address, you can only submit an online form,' Jenny said. 'I submitted a few of these forms but never had a response.'

Jenny then started a dispute via her credit card company, but was told it would be another six to eight weeks before it could look into her case.

She was eventually refunded by Dorothy Perkins, almost two months after returning the order in June.

Dorothy Perkins didn't provide a comment when asked.

What to do if you can't get through to customer services

Many retailers have reduced their customer service teams due to COVID-19.

A surge in online orders also means it might take longer to get a reply.

Here are some other routes to try if you've hit a dead end:

  • Complaining on Twitter or Facebook can yield faster responses from retailers, which are keen to take any negative conversations off their feeds.
  • Some retailers have specific pages for customer services queries, but it might be worth posting on their main account too, so your complaint doesn't get lost among others.
  • Writing a physical letter to the head office or a senior employee can also be surprisingly effective.

Make sure you're clear on your refund rights when you contact the retailer.

Most retailers have reinstated their pre-lockdown returns policies, so it's reasonable to expect your refund in line with their normal timeframes.

Consumer law says that retailers must refund customers within 14 days of receiving the goods or within 14 days from the date the goods were sent back (if you can provide evidence of this).

If the retailer has collected the goods, you should be refunded within 14 days from the date you informed the company you wanted to cancel the contract. It doesn't matter if it hasn't yet picked up the parcel.

2. Know your delivery rights

Delivery man with package

Vicky ordered a pair of trainers from Sports Direct for her partner's birthday at the beginning of July.

'I paid for next-day delivery but didn't hear anything the day it was supposed to arrive,' explained Vicky. 'The courier said they'd left it in a safe place, but didn't tell me where the safe place was.'

'The courier later confirmed the product was lost,' she said. 'I then had to contact Sports Direct but couldn't get through on the phone.'

Sports Direct finally got in touch with Vicky and asked her to fill out a form to get her money back.

'We sent the form back via recorded delivery, so we could see it had been delivered,' she said. 'But we still didn't hear anything, so I went onto its Facebook page to complain.'

Sports Direct eventually apologised and offered to send her a £10 voucher. However, weeks later, Vicky is yet to receive the refund or the voucher.

'All I want is my money back so I can get my husband a pair of trainers,' she said. 'They were meant to be a treat for his birthday back in August but he didn't have any gifts in the end. We can't afford to be out of pocket; we're a big family, and trainers aren't cheap.'

Sports Direct has since again told Vicky she will be refunded, but she's yet to receive the money in her account.

Your delivery rights, explained

If you've had a late or missing delivery, make sure to take it up with the retailer - not the courier.

Be clear on what your rights are and what you're entitled to:

  • Retailers have 30 days to deliver your parcel from the date of purchase, or you're entitled to a full refund.
  • If you paid for nominated-day delivery, but the parcel didn't arrive in this timeframe, you can ask to be reimbursed for the extra money you spent on delivery costs.
  • Think twice before allowing couriers to leave parcels with a neighbour or in a safe space - if something goes wrong, you won't be able to get your money back.

Use our undelivered goods complaint tool to create a letter to send to the retailer.

3. Contact your payment provider

'I've never experienced anything like it,' Holly told us, after House of Fraser failed to refund her for more than two months.

Holly returned two items to House of Fraser and asked for one of them to be exchanged. But, after a number of weeks, Holly still hadn't received the exchanged item or her money back.

'I sent them my proof of postage but again didn't get a response,' she told us. Holly then took to House of Fraser's Facebook page to complain instead.

'I went on its Facebook page and saw others weren't being refunded either,' she recalled. 'It got to the point where I thought, I'm never going to see this money again.'

Holly repeatedly tried to contact House of Fraser, but eventually made a claim through PayPal, which refunded her the money.

'I appreciate that COVID-19 had an effect on companies,' she said. 'But when you're waiting for so long and with no communication, you get fed up. It's the first and last time I'll use House of Fraser.'

A spokesperson for Mike Ashley's Frasers Group, which owns House of Fraser and Sports Direct, told us its online sales surged in a short space of time due to COVID-19, which meant it had to implement new warehouse and customer service procedures.

They said: 'unfortunately it appears from your message that some customers have not received the service they deserve and we are keen to rectify this as soon as possible.'

What payment protection do you have?

If you're struggling to get anywhere with the retailer, it can be faster to make a claim with your payment provider.

You'll get different protections depending on how you paid.

  • If you paid with a credit card for something that costs more than £100 (and less than £30,000) you can make a Section 75 claim with your credit card provicer, as it's jointly liable if something goes wrong.
  • Or, if you paid by debit card, you can try a chargeback claim with your bank, where it tries to claw the money back from the retailer.
  • Other payment methods, such as PayPal or Buy Now Pay Later schemes, will have their own protection policies in place - read them carefully to know what you're entitled to.

Start your Section 75 or chargeback claim against your card provider with our tool.

4. Faulty product? Check who your warranty is with

Michael was disappointed when his coffee machine, bought from Currys PC World, stopped working just five months after he bought it.

'Currys told me there's nothing they can do to help and told me to ring the manufacturer,' Michael explained. 'But my contract is with Currys - the company should be contacting the manufacturer, not me.'

Aware of his rights, Michael explained to Currys that it was its responsibility to repair or replace the item, as the fault had developed within six months of his purchase.

'Initially they said the same thing, that my warranty is with the manufacturer so I should contact the manufacturer,' Michael explained. 'But after I repeatedly told them my rights, they agreed to call the manufacturer and arrange for the machine to be collected.'

He then received a call from the manufacturer to organise a collection.

'Somehow I still ended up having to deal with the manufacturer rather than the retailer,' Michael said. 'Currys shirked off any responsibility and pushed me into dealing with the manufacturer.'

A Currys PC World spokesperson told us they're sorry to hear about the customer's problems. They said they've worked with the manufacturer to get the machine collected and have told Michael they'll refund him if the repair isn't successful.

Your rights to a repair, replacement or refund

You have certain rights to a refund if a product you bought is faulty:

  • If you discover a fault with a product within 30 days of buying it, you're entitled to a full refund, or a repair or replacement - whichever you'd prefer.
  • And if the fault is discovered after 30 days but within six months of buying the product, the retailer must offer to repair or replace it. This is the retailer's responsibility, not the manufacturer's. If it can't repair or replace the item, you can ask for a refund.
  • If you've owned the product for longer than six months, it's worth checking to see whether you have a warranty with the manufacturer, which may repair or replace it free of charge.

Use our faulty goods letter template to write to the retailer you're having trouble with.

Have you been let down and left out of pocket? Are your consumer rights being ignored? Get in touch with us: yourstory@which.co.uk