Two thirds of online shoppers have had parcels lost, damaged or arrive late in the last year, a survey has found.
Parcels left in rubbish bins was one of the most common complaints received by Citizens Advice, who found that 69% of internet shoppers have suffered some form of problem with their delivery.
Customers waiting at home for a parcel only to receive a note saying they were out when the delivery driver called was another frequent complaint.
As summer sales season gets under way, Citizens Advice said those who paid for a premium service guaranteeing next day or a named day delivery also suffered problems.
The survey of more than 2,000 online shoppers found 38% of people have had a parcel arrive late, including 16% who paid for a premium delivery service.
More than one in 10 received damaged items, more than one in five had a parcel go missing, 28% had their parcel left in an unsecure location and 28% were at home but had a note through the door saying the parcel could not be delivered.
However, more than half of people (54%) do not take any action, such as complaining or asking for a refund, if their parcel is late.
Some 40% of those who did try to complain had further problems, such as having difficulty contacting the retailer or delivery company on the phone.
The research also found that half of consumers are not clear that retailers are responsible for ensuring that their goods reach customers.
Citizens Advice said it helped consumers with 2,600 parcel delivery issues each year, while more than 23,000 people sought help via its website last year.
Among the complainants was a woman who was on holiday when her parcel was left in a bin, returning to find the bin had been emptied and told by the retailer that it was not their responsibility.
Another man ordered a car part online which was left in a bin that was emptied by the time he got home from work, with the sender also claiming it was not their fault.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Waiting at home for an item that doesn't arrive is frustrating and time consuming, but our research shows many people aren't taking action to resolve delivery issues, and others are running into problems if they do.
"Retailers are responsible for getting the parcel to the customer, and making this clearer to customers at the checkout could help them sort out problems quicker if deliveries go astray."
Citizens Advice said consumers with delivery problems should contact the retailer, who is responsible for ensuring the order arrives.
Deliveries should arrive within 30 days of the order being placed, unless a specific date has been arranged, after which the customer can cancel the order and get a full refund.
Items damaged on delivery should be replaced or refunded by the retailer, as should items that are not left in the location named by the delivery company.
What the law says
When it comes to problems with deliveries, you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which came into force in June 2013 and replaced the Distance Selling Regulations.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, when you buy goods from an online retailer, they are responsible for the goods until you receive them.
So, if the courier loses the goods you ordered or they arrive damaged, the retailer is responsible for putting things right, not the courier.
Late post step 1: Get in touch with the retailer
If you ordered an item and it has failed to show up on time, the first thing to do is raise it with the retailer to find out if your item has actually been dispatched.
Once your query has been logged, it's the retailer's responsibility to track down your package. You may choose to speed things up by getting in touch with the delivery firm yourself.
Start with social media - it's a lot faster than filling in an online form and you're more likely to get a response within the hour.
Alternatively, call the firm's customer services number to get an update on your purchase.
'My package turned up late - can I get a refund?'
By law, goods should be delivered within a 'reasonable time'. What's reasonable will depend on the type of goods and the original estimate for delivery.
If you paid for express delivery but it failed to arrive in the promised time frame, you can ask for the cost of express postage back.
However, if you paid for standard delivery - or you got it free - you cannot claim normal postage costs if the item arrives, even if it turns up later than the estimated delivery time.
Your item must arrive within 30 days of the order being placed.
If it arrives after 30 days without notice, you are entitled to a full refund, as stated in the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 .
'I signed for the item - but it's damaged'
Often when you buy an item online, you'll be asked to sign for it on arrival. This does not affect your rights if you later discover it's faulty or damaged.
The Consumer Rights Act states that any damage or breakage during delivery is at the responsibility of the seller.
Consumer platform Which? says, it's always a good idea to write on the card, or electronic device if possible, 'goods received but not inspected' to make your position clear - just in case of any damage.
If you discover your item is damaged after you signed for it, get in touch with the seller and explain the situation.
'My package didn't turn up...at all'
It's the seller's responsibility to make sure the item arrives as promised. If your item fails to show, they should chase the delivery company to find out what's happened.
If you are advised that the item is 'lost', the retailer is legally responsible for either re-arranging delivery or giving you a full refund.
Get in touch with the retailer and request a replacement or your money back.
'The retailer has refused me a refund or replacement'
It's the retailer's responsibility to make sure you're not left out of pocket, therefore if the item goes missing or arrives damaged, they have a responsibility to put things right.
However, there are companies out there that will try to shift the blame.
If this happens to you, here's what to do:
Don't feel intimidated. Make a complaint to the retailer using its formal process.
If this fails, tell the firm that you want them to suspend action while your concerns are formally investigated. Raise a case with the Retail Ombudsman and they'll get in touch on your behalf.
If you paid by credit card - even just part of your purchase - you could try to claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (as long as the item is worth at least £100 and under £30,000).
If you paid via PayPal and your item doesn't arrive, or doesn't match the seller's description, you are protected by its Buyer Protection guarantee. This will reimburse you for the full amount of the item plus postage and packaging costs.
If you've used a debit card or paid for an item worth less than £100 on a credit card, your bank may be able to reverse the transaction under a process called Chargeback. This is slightly risky though as there's a chance the firm will register a 'breach of contract' to the bank - effectively refusing to cooperate.