Signed, sealed, but not delivered

Which? reveals how deliveries ahead of Christmas are not arriving as planned, with consumers reporting lengthy delays, damaged packages and poor communication.

Earlier in December, Which? asked over 2000 people about their experience of receiving deliveries within the past month, and found that only a third (35%) received all their deliveries as expected.

The survey found that more than half (56%) reported that a delivery didn’t come when expected, including a quarter (26%) of people receiving a delivery early. One in five (21%) told Which? that at least one delivery did not arrive at all and for 18% at least one delivery was late.

Consumers complained about lengthy delays, lack of communication, delivery instructions being ignored and packages being damaged when forced through letterboxes. One person was outraged that a parcel was left under their car, another had a parcel left with a neighbour without permission, who opened it and showed it to others in the village, and a third found a fragile delivery after it had been “tossed over the gate”. There was further evidence of poor service with consumers noting that a delivery had been left outside the door without consent (10%), in the rubbish or recycling (4%) or thrown over a hedge or fence (3%).

The study revealed that numerous packages were also being left in inappropriate places. One in eight (12%) had a delivery left with an unauthorised person, although were still able to collect it from them. However, 2% had a delivery left with an unauthorised person and were unable to retrieve it.

In a separate survey, Which? found there is still confusion about who is responsible when something goes wrong during the delivery process. Only half (51%) of shoppers know to contact the retailer if posted goods go missing after being left on the doorstep or in the garden without permission. Around a third (36%) incorrectly thought that they should contact the delivery company and one in seven (13%) said that did not know who to contact.

Which? advice for consumers this Christmas is that if an order is damaged in the post, you should raise your complaint with the retailer, not the delivery company, as your contract is with the retailer. Of those who expected a delivery in the past month that didn’t arrive when planned, more than half (57%) did not complain at all.

If you paid an online retailer for delivery by a certain date or time and it turns up late, you have the right to terminate the purchase and get a full refund. Which? found that seven in 10 (68%) knew that they should contact the retailer in this scenario, whereas one in 10 (9%) again incorrectly thought they should contact the delivery company.

The Which? Consumer Rights site provides free online advice on all your shopping rights, including how to complain if your delivery is late, damaged, stolen or left with a neighbour who denies having it.


Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“A delivery nightmare can cause unwanted stress at this time of year, when more than ever customers want to know things will arrive in one piece and on time.

“Make sure you know your rights this Christmas just in case something unexpected happens to your delivery.”


Notes to editors

  • Which? surveyed 2099 residents of the UK between 11th and 12th December 2017 about their experience of deliveries in the past month. Data was weighted to be representative of age and gender of residents in the UK.
  • Which? surveyed 2089 residents of the UK between 6th and 7th November 2017 about their understanding their consumer rights for the delivery of purchases. Data was weighted to be representative of age and gender of residents in the UK.
  • For more information about your delivery rights, visit:
  • For anyone struggling to resolve their delivery issues with the retailer, Which? has also created a free delivery complaint tool that shows you what to do to get your delivery problem sorted. To try the tool, visit:


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