Poor online couriers and ‘porch pirates’ could be putting Christmas deliveries under threat

Damaged deliveries
Online shoppers have faced all sorts of issues with deliveries. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Despite the fact that we're shopping online more than ever, many of us still have to put up with all kinds of issues when it comes to deliveries.

E-shopping saw a boom in popularity during the Covid lockdowns, and people are continuing to opt for the convenience of purchasing items online and having them delivered to their doorsteps. But new research shows that consumers are facing "substandard" delivery services from all the main courier companies in the UK.

The annual survey by Citizens Advice found that more than one in three shoppers - equivalent to 13.3 million people - have had a problem with the last parcel they had delivered, with the most common issues faced including deliveries being left in locations that were not secure and parcels arriving later than expected.

It comes after a study released earlier this year by postal experts Hopewiser found that nearly 9 million UK shoppers have received a damaged parcel, with 32% saying their parcels were left out in the rain and 18% saying they found them in a bin.

Evri, formerly known as Hermes UK, and Yodel were named joint worst courier companies in the UK, receiving a score of two from customers. Royal Mail and Amazon topped the list - but actually didn’t fare much better, both scoring only 2.75 stars.

One young Caucasian man sitting at home and feeling disappointed after he unpacking a parcel with the wrong order. Online shopping concept.
Citizens Advice says online shoppers are receiving 'substandard' courier services with their deliveries. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Citizens Advice warned that, with Christmas on the horizon, online shoppers are being "let down" and urged parcel companies to "take action to protect shoppers and get to the root cause of these persistent failings".

'Porch pirates' also a concern

But it’s not just courier companies that shoppers need to worry about when waiting for deliveries. "Porch pirates" are also a problem, with separate research showing that a large proportion of UK residents face the possibility of parcel theft during the shopping and gifting season.

Bond agency Lance Surety Bond Associates found that 32% of UK residents fell victim to parcel theft during the holidays. The majority of these thefts (62%) occurred during Christmas season, while 12% took place over Black Friday and a further 12% during Prime Day.

The survey also revealed the day of the week your parcel is most likely to be stolen. Wednesdays (34%) were the day that "porch pirates" were most likely to strike UK households, followed by Thursdays (23%) and Tuesdays (20%).

The day you are least likely to have a parcel stolen is Sunday (1%) - suggesting that even professional thieves do take a day off.

What can be done?

In light of these issues, Citizens Advice has called on the communications regulator Ofcom to conduct a review of complaints and accessibility guidance by April 2024. The organisation is also calling on the regulator to consider taking action, such as issuing fines, against offending courier companies if they do not show any improvements by then.

Amazon and Yodel have both insisted that the "vast majority" of their deliveries end up safely in customers’ hands without problems. Chris Ashworth, chief customer officer at Evri, told the Guardian that the company was "disappointed" by its ranking and added that its "rising parcel volumes are proof that customers and retail clients are voting with their feet and trust us with their deliveries".

What to do if your delivery is late or goes missing

According to Which? there are some steps you can take to get compensation if something goes wrong and your delivery doesn’t turn up.

Complain to the retailer

Do not complain to the courier about a missing delivery, as your contract is with the retailer. The retailer is responsible for the safe delivery of your order, as per the Consumer Rights Act.

You can also complain to the retailer if you paid extra for special delivery and your order arrived later than it should, as you can claim back the extra delivery cost.

Cancel your order

If your order doesn’t show up for days, you can exercise your right to cancel it. Most goods bought online can be cancelled from the time you place your order until 14 days from the day you receive your item. You can get a full refund.

Ask for a refund or replacement

In the event your parcel is late, even after you made it clear to the retailer you needed it by a certain date, you can claim a refund. However, Which? advises that if it wasn’t clear that the delivery was essential, you must give them another chance to deliver the order. If they fail a second time, you can ask for a refund.

You can also ask for a refund or replacement if your parcel is handed to you in a tampered state. Before opening the parcel, take photos of the box from every angle. Make sure you get photos of areas where it looks clear that the parcel has been opened and resealed. Then check the contents and take pictures as well, particularly if something is missing or has been replaced.

Report a crime

If your delivery was left somewhere you didn’t give permission for and subsequently stolen, the retailer is in breach of contract and must replace and redeliver your item. Which? recommends contacting your local police station and providing them with photographic evidence and correspondence with the retailer, as it can help strengthen your claim for a replacement or refund.

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