Online shopping delivery rights

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If you’re shopping online there’s nothing worse than the order not arriving. So, what can you do if you’ve ordered something online and never received it? What are your rights?

Online shopping delivery rights

If you ordered something online and the goods aren’t delivered in time you can cancel your order and get your money back. Whenever you buy something online, over the phone or by mail order you have a general cooling off period – a right to cancel your order.

These rules say:

1. You can cancel your order within 14 days of the date that the goods arrive. You can use this if you change your mind after you’ve ordered something. But it’s also useful if you ordered something for Christmas or someone’s birthday and the goods don’t arrive in time. This may be useful if you want to try and buy the item on the high street instead and don’t want to end up with two.

SAVVY TIP: The 14 day cooling off period doesn’t apply if you bought something that was customised or made especially for you. It also doesn’t apply if you bought fresh food or if it’s something like a DVD or CD that you’ve taken them out of its packaging. The law applies to online auctions whether you bid for something or use the ‘buy it now’ facility. You have another 14 days after you’ve cancelled the sale to return the item.

2. You may have to pay return postage. Some shops ask you to pay postage and packing on returns while others pay it themselves. The rules say that return postage costs are free unless the retailer has told you how much you’ll have to pay. Most online shops list details of how you’re supposed to return goods in their terms and conditions.

SAVVY TIP: Some retailers will refund the cost of the item and postage and packing costs if you buy several items and return all of them but you’ll normally have to pay the delivery charges if you keep one or more items but send the rest back.

3. If the goods go missing the shop must replace them. If the goods have been sent but don’t arrive the retailer must send a replacement or give you your money back. I know of several people who’ve been told by the online shop that they must claim against the postal company and that it’s not their responsibility once it’s been posted. This is incorrect. Your contract is with the retailer not the postal or delivery company.

SAVVY TIP: You’re given these rights by the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which have replaced the Distance Selling Regulations. Useful in case you want to quote the law at someone!

What can you do if the order goes missing?

If you order something and it doesn’t arrive but, for example, the delivery company says it left it behind your garden gate or in a recycling bin, it’s still the retailer’s responsibility to make sure it arrives. So that means that if the delivery company decided to leave something in a recycling bin and it was stolen or taken away with the recycling, the retailer must send you a replacement or give you your money back.

What happens if you ask the delivery company to leave items in a specific location?

If you ask the retailer to leave a package with a neighbour or in the recycling bin, and it then disappears, you don’t have the same rights. That’s because the delivery company will have been acting on your instructions.

SAVVY TIP: The lesson here is that unless you’re sure that something is safe to be left where you ask the delivery company to do so, don’t leave instructions! I’m aware of at least one case involving a retailer that has a very good reputation for customer service, but which said it delivered an iPad to someone’s neighbour, who was adamant she’d never received it. The person who ordered the item was told she’d have to get the policy involved. Hardly the kind of thing to improve neighbourly relations!

Are delivery dates guaranteed?

Delivery dates aren’t necessarily guaranteed. Just because a retailer says you can ‘order now for Christmas’ doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when they have to deliver it by. It’s what’s in the confirmation email and terms and conditions that counts. If retailer says it’s guaranteeing to deliver something to you in time for Christmas, this then becomes part of the contract. However, the retailer should deliver items within 30 days at the latest and, if they don’t, you can cancel the contract and get your money back.

SAVVY TIP: If an online retailer (or mail order company) says it can deliver goods by a certain date and that was made clear in the pre-contract information and you relied on it – so it had influenced your decision about where to buy from – you could argue that it had formed part of the contract.

If you’ve bought a replacement

If you ordered something online that didn’t arrive, and you had to buy it elsewhere (at higher cost) you may be able to sue for ‘loss of bargain’. This is where you sue the online retailer for the difference between the price. However, it probably won’t be straightforward so don’t assume you’ll be able to claim the difference.

SAVVY TIP: ‘Loss of bargain’ is a bit of a grey area and not necessarily the easiest law to make a claim under. As things stand the retailer has quite a lot of discretion about whether they will refund the difference in price.

Related articles:

If you’re shopping from home, online, over the phone or from a catalogue, make sure you know your rights

Knowing your rights under section 75 if you pay by credit card

Don’t pay a retailer or trader you don’t know by bank transfer. If there’s a problem you aren’t protected

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