In the run up to Christmas, it’s present buying time and many people will be taking time off work to wait for deliveries. But what are your rights if there’s a no-show? It’s over to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.
Martin’s free delivery rights guide, compensation template letters and full help
It’s crucial to know your rights. Not just to punish delivery firms, but to teach them we won’t be trodden on, so they keep service standards high. Here are the key points you need to know.
Who do I complain to? The retailer or courier?
From the moment you pay for your goods or service to the second it's delivered, the retailer – not the courier company – is responsible, as that's who your 'contract' is with. So it should always be your first port of call for any complaint.
This can feel strange if you know the problem is the courier firm’s fault. But remember, it was the company you paid who chose that courier firm, and legally the buck stops with it.
The only exception is if you arranged delivery yourself, separately, with the courier company.
I’ve taken time off for an arranged delivery, which hasn’t turned up. What are my rights?
If delivery doesn’t occur, you may be entitled to compensation. There are two types, and you could be eligible for either, or both:
- Direct loss. This is simple. If you ordered the goods and they didn’t arrive, you should be to claim recompense, or at least have the order re-arranged.
- Consequential loss. This is a legal term meaning an indirect loss that happens due to a breach of contract - if what went wrong made you lose out in additional ways.
It has to be a close link to what happened, so you can’t argue that - the delivery was late, so I was late for work, started speeding and had an accident and so I want money for that. However, if you took time off work and it didn’t show, so you then had to take another day off to wait for re-delivery, that’s a much more direct result, so more arguable.
Yet, while it might seem slightly unusual, you can't claim compensation for the original no-show day as you haven't technically lost out through this, because you were going to take that day off work anyway.
If the end result is you need to take a SECOND day (or morning / hour) off for a new date, then you can argue you’re due compensation for loss of earnings or loss of a day's holiday.
If there were no additional costs to you waiting longer, or taking another day off (eg, you were already off work), it's unlikely a judge would award in your favour. But there’s no harm in complaining anyway that the service was inadequate.
Before claiming compensation for consequential loss, first of all you are expected to have tried to minimise your loss beforehand, eg, by arranging the delivery at a convenient time when you’d be home, without incurring any problems like having to miss work.
How likely is this to work?
Ultimately, to enforce these rights you’d need to take the company to court – then it’s for a judge to decide. However, that’s the last thing anyone wants. The real aim here is to ensure you know your rights. Then when you call up to complain, you can explain this to the firm – and ensure they know you’re tooled up and not afraid to use your rights.
Also, this article has been written with English and Welsh law and consumers in mind, although much of it will also apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What if I order goods for Christmas, but these turn up late?
Actually, you’ve more rights if you’ve ordered online, by mail order, or over the phone, than in store, as if the company is based in the EU, it’s covered by Distance Selling Regulations. These mean you always have seven days to return goods for a full refund, even if there’s nothing wrong with them. With goods bought in store, legally you only have the right to return goods if they’re faulty.
However, when it comes to timing, unless a date is specified, then the only rule is goods must be delivered within a “reasonable time”. While this should be within 30 days, it’s a rather loose statement.
So if you’re buying goods specifically for Christmas, whether small or large, and whether or not you need to be in the house to receive them, then get the store to agree to deliver them as time is of the essence.
This is a legal phrase and you should establish it as part of your ‘contract’. When ordering online, if there’s no option to add this, place your order, and write to or ring up the retailer and ask it to add “time is of the essence” to your order.
If you don’t say it, while you may be able to say it’s obvious to expect goods bought specifically as Christmas presents (eg, a Christmas tree) to arrive before Christmas, you’ve fewer rights.
However, if a company has given you a delivery time and it’s woefully in excess of that, you’ve a right to a full refund if you want to cancel the order. You can also try and argue for compensation for distress and inconvenience if it applies, or because the company didn’t meet expectations.