Forged signatures and fox food: Which? reveals Christmas delivery disasters, and the courier most likely to let you down

Parcels lobbed over fences, forged signatures and packages chewed almost beyond recognition by foxes were just some of the Christmas delivery disasters endured by online shoppers – as new Which? research reveals two in three had at least one issue with their deliveries last year.

The consumer champion surveyed more than 2,000 people about their experience with deliveries during Christmas last year and around two-thirds (69%) said they had at least one problem.

Among the delivery problems experienced by survey respondents were parcels damaged after being thrown over fences, a clothes delivery tossed in the food waste bin and a parcel left out in rain, where it was chewed up by foxes.

One respondent also told Which? that their signature was forged by a courier to suggest they had personally accepted the delivery, when in fact it had been left on their doorstep even though they were inside waiting for it to arrive.

Nearly one in five (18%) told Which? their delivery arrived late last year, while one in ten (11%) said they did not receive their delivery in time for Christmas. These included a grandfather who had to buy extra gifts for his grandson because the toy robot he had ordered failed to arrive on time.

Almost a quarter (23%) who shopped online last Christmas said at least one delivery did not arrive at all – leaving them to face the inconvenience of having to apply for a refund or buy the product again.

One respondent said a laptop they had ordered never arrived but had apparently been signed for the month before.

Many consumers have been forced to rely on online retailers and deliveries this year due to the pandemic and demand is expected to be higher than ever during the festive season. In a separate survey, Which? asked more than 13,000 members about their experience with major couriers between March and August.

The consumer champion asked members how satisfied they were with couriers that delivered the most recent item they had ordered. They rated firms in a range of categories including length of time between ordering and delivery, delivery time slot offered, communication received by the delivery company, social distancing measures by the delivery driver and where the parcel was left.

UPS was consistently the worst courier for keeping customers satisfied across key categories. One in four UPS customers said they were unhappy with the delivery slots offered (23%) and how the company communicated with customers (24%), and one in 10 (11%) said they were not pleased with where the delivery driver left their order.

One UPS customer told Which? they received a smashed computer after it was delivered upside down by UPS, despite a clear “this way up” label on the box.

When it came to how quickly couriers delivered orders, Amazon was the best with nine in 10 (92%) people satisfied with the length of time between ordering and delivery.

For communication with customers, Amazon (85%) also finished joint top with DPD (86%), with the highest proportion of satisfied customers in this category. DPD was also the best delivery firm for delivery slots, with more than eight in 10 (82%) happy with the slots offered for their most recent delivery.

Royal Mail had the most satisfied customers in the category for where deliveries were left, with more than nine in 10 (93%) happy with where the driver left their most recent delivery. All delivery firms performed well when it came to maintaining social distancing guidelines.

With Christmas just weeks away, more people than ever will be shopping online and relying on delivery firms to get their gifts – so it is important for consumers to know their rights if a delivery arrives damaged, late or not at all.

Customers are entitled to a replacement, repair or refund if a delivery arrives faulty. Customers can also get a refund from their retailer if they paid extra for a special delivery that then arrived late.

If a delivery fails to arrive, customers should immediately contact the retailer, which should either help track down their order or send a replacement.

Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said:

“Christmas is when we really want parcels to arrive on time – but unfortunately it’s also peak time for late, damaged or missing deliveries and we have heard stories of shockingly bad service from the big courier firms.

“With more people than ever expected to shop online this Christmas, it is worth getting your orders in as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that retailers are responsible for ensuring orders arrive in a reasonable timeframe, so don’t be afraid to make a complaint if you are having problems.”

Notes to editor

Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,071 UK adults online between Jan 31– Feb 2020. The data has been weighted to be representative of the UK population (aged 18 and over).

Which? surveyed 13,204 members of its online panel between 13th and 25th August 2020 about online orders placed between March and August 2020, excluding groceries. The companies were Amazon, DHL, DPD, Hermes/MyHermes/Parcelforce, Yodel, Royal Mail (Signed for), Royal Mail and UPS.

Six essential consumer rights tips if your delivery hasn’t gone to plan:

  • If your order is late, missing or has turned up damaged we recommend that you complain to the retailer – even if you think it’s down to poor service from the courier, because your contract is with the retailer.
  • If you paid extra for special delivery and your order arrived later than agreed you can claim back the extra delivery cost as the service wasn’t delivered.
  • Be aware if you give permission for your delivery to be left in a specified safe place or received by a nominated neighbour and something goes wrong, you will still be considered to have received the delivery. Think very carefully about those options when you’re making a purchase.
  • If your order arrives damaged or faulty, you have a right to refuse it and get a refund, repair or replacement. Understand your next steps if your goods arrive damaged in the post.
  • Your delivery must be made without undue delay and within 30 days from the point of purchase unless you and the retailer agree otherwise, this is stipulated by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • You can also cancel (within 14 days of receipt of goods) an order for most items ‘bought at a distance’ – for example, online, over the phone or a mail order catalogue.

Right of reply

A UPS spokesperson said:

“At UPS, we deliver an average of 20 million parcels per day around the world and pride ourselves on our service quality and reliability. As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on third party research.”

“The safe handling and delivery of all parcels in our care is our absolute priority. We take any damage to goods very seriously, and deeply regret any upset and inconvenience caused to this individual. The service described does not appear to meet the high standards we expect from all our staff and we would therefore like the opportunity to investigate the matter internally.”

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