With the increase in online shopping comes an obvious increase in the number of complaints regarding delivery of goods – whether this is non-delivery or delivery of damaged items. So where do you stand?
The first point to distinguish is whether you ordered the goods under a distance selling contract, or whether you arranged delivery after buying them in a shop, as this will affect your consumer rights. If it was an internet or mail order purchase, you may also like to refer to our sections on distance selling and buying online.

The goods still haven’t arrived

Under the distance selling regulations, the goods must be delivered within the time period they have specified. If no time period is specified, then the statutory time limit is 30 days (unless you have agreed otherwise). If the supplier is unable to do this, they must inform you before the end of the 30 day deadline. They may offer you an alternative date for delivery, but you are under no obligation to accept and can ask for a full refund. For other purchases, Sale of Goods only refers to ‘reasonable time’. If you fear you’ve been the victim of fraud, refer to ‘getting your money back’ at the end of this section.

The goods have arrived damaged

As you might expect, the supplier is under obligation to ensure the goods are well protected while they are in transit. The supplier must also make sure the delivery company/courier are aware that the goods are fragile or if they are to be kept or carried in a certain way. If they do not, they will be liable for any damage occurred in transit.

It is common for traders to sidestep liability by saying that you signed for them. A delivery note (as the name suggests) indicates merely that the product has been delivered and not that they have been accepted. If there is a problem with the goods, you may still reject them, particularly if you haven’t previously had a chance to examine them in person. With some items you will be asked to inspect the goods there and then and sign a form to say that they have arrived in satisfactory condition. The law states that you should have reasonable opportunity to examine the goods for yourself, so you could argue that ‘there and then’ is not reasonable and opt not to sign the form. You should however look at the supplier’s Ts and Cs to see whether they have imposed any time limit on reporting faults – although in line with the law, this should be reasonable.

It should be pointed out that if you did have the chance to examine the goods while they still in the shop, and you spot something wrong when it arrives that you should have spotted when you examined it, you may not be able to reject it. Although in reality, most shops will show some good will if you simply want to exchange it for another one.

Sending the goods back

Unless you have bought the goods under a distance selling contract, you won’t have any legal right to send the goods back if you have simply changed your mind. You should refer to that retailer’s return policy and will probably have to pay postage. If the goods have arrived damaged, and you have been offered requested a repair or a replacement, you should not have to pay any further sums of money in this respect. This includes labour, materials or postage. The repair / replacement should take place in ‘reasonable time’ and you should not experience any ‘significant inconvenience’, while you are without it/them. For more on this, see our section on Sale of Goods and Returning Damaged or Faulty Goods.

In all respects, you will have greater rights if you had bought them under a distance contract (online, mail order). This is because you didn’t have the opportunity to examine them before they were shipped – to see if they are:

  • Of satisfactory quality
  • As described
  • Fit for intended purpose
  • Appropriate to your requirements

With this in mind you will have a 7-day cooling off period, during which time you can cancel the contract and get your money back in full (including delivery charges). Unless otherwise specified (for certain types of products), you should be able to send the items back for free, and not incur any additional charges such as a restocking or admin fee. Although many retailers will request products to be returned in a saleable condition in their original packaging, they cannot make it a condition of giving you a refund. For more on returns and refunds under a distance selling contract, see our sections on distance selling and buying online.

Getting your money back

Under Sale of Goods, if the goods are poor quality, unfit or not as described, you may be eligible for an immediate refund, although no definitive timescale is mentioned beyond ‘reasonable time’. Under a distance selling contract, your 7 day cooling off period entitles you to a refund within 30 days. If you have not received the goods and suspect you may have been the victim of fraud, you can take it up with your credit card company (provided you paid on credit card and certain conditions are met), or invoke the Visa Debit Chargeback procedure. If the supplier becomes insolvent before your goods or services are delivered, you may have little recourse other than to be added to a list of creditors.