One in ten online Christmas gifts arrive late

A new Which? survey has revealed the most common delivery problems experienced when people order gifts online and a lack of awareness among consumers about what to do if things go wrong.

The survey revealed 80% of us bought Christmas presents online last year but Which? found nearly one in ten (8%) said their gifts failed to arrive in time for the big day. This was despite the vast majority (88%) ordering on, or well before, the cut off date for Christmas delivery.

As well as festive shopping, the survey questioned more than 2,000 people about their experience of receiving online goods over the period of a year*.

We found:

  • 40% said the item wasn’t delivered when specified;
  • 19% complained that a note was left, saying they were out, when they were actually in;
  • and 15% told us their parcel was left with a neighbour without their consent.

Other complaints reported to Which? included a new phone being left out in the rain, a £135 pair of football boots left on a doorstep and 4% of respondents found their parcels had been thrown over a fence or a hedge.

We also found a low level of awareness about online delivery rights too:

  • Six out of ten people didn’t know that if the delivery company says it has left the parcel with a neighbour without consent and the neighbour doesn’t have it, you can ask the seller to re-send the order at no extra cost;
  • Three out of ten people didn’t know that if you receive a damaged item you can ask the seller for a refund, or to replace it free of charge, even if you have signed for the delivery;
  • And three quarters of people had no idea they had seven working days to change their mind about an item from the day that they received it**.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“With household budgets squeezed, more of us are shopping online to find a bargain, but consumers are in the dark over their delivery rights and that can leave them struggling to fight back against shoddy service.”

“Shoppers can get clued up ahead of the festive season with our Christmas Delivery Rights Guide, but we also want to see more retailers doing more to ensure people get their festive gifts in time.”

Here’s some top tips on consumer retail and delivery rights:

Cancelling your order – You can cancel your online order for goods anytime from the moment you place your order to up to seven working days from the day after you receive it.

Returning goods – If an online shop doesn’t explain who pays to send returned goods back, then they must pay. But watch out, as there are some items you can’t return if you simply change your mind, such as CDs, DVDs or software if you’ve broken the seal on the wrapping, perishable items such as food and flowers, and tailor-made or personalised goods.

Returning faulty goods – Items must be ‘fit for their purpose’, as described, and of satisfactory quality. If you have to return an item for one of these reasons, give the retailer the chance to collect it or ask for the cost of postage back.

Contacting the retailer – The E Commerce Regulations state that the online shop has to give full details of who they are and provide a geographical address and an email address at which to contact them.

T&Cs to watch out for – Some online retailers say that the price of your order will be fixed the day the goods are sent to you rather than the day you order. Most supermarkets do this, so if you’re ordering lots of half-price goods to be delivered at a later date, bear in mind that the deals might have ended by that time and you may end up paying more.

For more information about shopping rights visit Which?’s Christmas Shopping Hub

Notes to Editors:

* Oct 2011 to Oct 2012

1.The survey involved 2,097 members of the general public and was carried out online between 12th – 14th of October.

** YouGov PLC, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a random sample of 5257 UK adults aged 18+ online between 9th  and 13th July 2012.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. 

2. Which?’s guide to the Distance Selling Regulations can be found here:

3. Which?’s Online Shopping delivery rights guide can be found here:

Press Release