What happens if your Christmas presents don't arrive?



This year more than one in ten of us have decided to skip the stress of the high street, and do our Christmas shopping online. It's a brilliant way to avoid the crowds and the queues, and can feel like Christmas without the stress.... until something fails to arrive.

So what are your rights if your presents never show up - or if they're stuck in the post until the new year?

Never delivered

If you ordered online and the item is never delivered, your first port of call should be to contact the retailer and ask for a refund. They have the right to insist that you wait a 'reasonable time' for it to show up.

However, after that time you have the right to cancel and get a full refund. This right is part of the distance selling regulations, which give you seven days to cancel from the day you receive the item. You should cancel in writing and receive a refund that includes any delivery charges.

Don't be fobbed off if the retailer suggests you contact the courier, your contract is with the retailer, so they need to sort it out for you.

Never delivered and the seller vanishes

If you try to contact the seller and discover they have gone out of business, or vanished, then your rights will depend on how you paid. If you bought with a credit card and the item is for more than £100, then contact your credit card company who will refund the money and then try to recover it themselves.

If you paid by debit card, or it cost less than £100, you may have some luck through a voluntary scheme called chargeback. In this process your bank will ask the seller's bank to reverse the transaction. This will have varying degrees of success but is worth a try.

Delivered after Christmas

If the retailer was definitely promising delivery before Christmas, then it arriving late is a breach of contract and they will need to offer a refund. If you have paid extra for next-day delivery, then you will usually fall into this bracket.

If you want to keep the goods despite their late delivery, you may be entitled to compensation. The retailers have their rules and procedures, so you'll need to check their website for details. Most will deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, but your first step should be to contact them, explain your position, and ask for compensation.

If there were no guarantees, they have a full 30 days from when they receive your order to deliver it, so you have no right to a refund based on the delivery date.

However, it pays to check the returns policy of the retailer. Many will refund your money if you return the product - although some will insist it isn't opened. This is particularly the case with things like DVDs and CDs, which usually can't be returned if you have opened the cellophane.

Even if it's not part of their policy, the distance selling rules mean you can still send goods back within seven days of receiving them and get a full refund (although you will have to pay to send them back). You will need to include a letter cancelling the order, and asking for your refund.

Missed a delivery slot

If you've ordered something big and you are given a specific delivery slot, you have rights if they miss the slot. If you have to take a second day off in order to arrange delivery you are entitled to compensation for the loss of earnings or loss of a day's holiday. You will need to write to the company and ask for compensation.