woman on the phone with a damaged parcel

What are my rights if my online order is late, missing, or faulty?

author: Fiona Peake

By Fiona Peake

Waiting in for a delivery that doesn’t turn up as expected is frustrating. But never receiving it at all, or getting a faulty item, may be a breach of contract. 

Let’s look at the things you can do when deliveries fall short of expectations. 

You could get a refund if your online order is late 

Orders made online or over the phone are covered under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This law states that if your order doesn’t arrive within 30 days, you’re entitled to a full refund. This stands even if your delivery turns up after the 30-day period, and even if a refund has already been issued. 

You can also cancel or request a refund if the retailer agreed to a delivery date that wasn’t met. For example, if you paid for named or next-day delivery and your parcel didn’t arrive on the date promised. 

Bear in mind that different rules apply for perishable items. How long you must wait before you can request a refund will differ depending on how long the item should reasonably last. It’s worth checking directly with the retailer about this when ordering. 

It may be trickier to get your money back if you order in-store 

Orders placed in-store for home delivery aren’t covered by the same consumer protection as online orders. You still have basic rights if your delivery is late, but it can be much trickier to get your money back. 

You can beef up your rights by getting the retailer to agree to a ‘time is of the essence’ clause - a promise to deliver your order by a set date - at the point of order. If the order then arrives late, you can either:  

  • Refuse to accept goods or services that are late and get all your money back  
  • Agree to keep the goods or services at a reduced price (so receiving a partial refund) 

It’s worth noting that retailers aren’t legally obligated to agree to a ‘time is of the essence’ request. But it’s a little-known trick that’s worth trying.  

You will usually be entitled to a refund if a delivery goes missing 

If you think your parcel has gone missing, contact the seller, not the courier, to see if they can track it.  

Your contract is with them, so it’s the seller's responsibility to resolve it if something you ordered goes missing. 

If you suspect that your parcel has been stolen, you should contact the police and the retailer. Some (but not all) retailers will send you a free replacement as a gesture of goodwill. 

If the seller has delivered your item, but your parcel was left somewhere other than requested by you and has gone missing, then you’re entitled to a refund. 

However, if you provided instructions for your parcel to be delivered to a certain place (like a porch or with a neighbour), the retailer isn’t responsible if they deliver it correctly and it disappears afterwards. 

If a delivery is faulty or damaged, you may be able to get it replaced or refunded 

If your parcel arrives in the post damaged or faulty, you should complain to the retailer (not the courier) as soon as possible. Even though it may be the courier’s fault if an item gets damaged in transit, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to get it to you in one piece.  

Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015, you have 30 days to reject and get a refund for goods that fit any of these criteria:  

  • Unsatisfactory quality, e.g. damaged or faulty 
  • Unfit for purpose   
  • Not as described at the time of purchase   

After this period, you still have up to six months to report a fault. You’ll need to give the retailer an opportunity to repair or replace it, but if they don’t, you can then ask for a full refund. 

If you’ve signed for a delivery and later opened the box to find the item is damaged or faulty, you still have the same rights to a refund or replacement.  

You can request redelivery if an item doesn’t turn up 

Sometimes an order is essential, and you’ll still need it even if it’s late. You can request redelivery of your item if it didn’t turn up:  

  • By an agreed date   
  • Within 30 days of making the purchase 

If you request a redelivery and a second date also isn’t met, you can cancel your order and request a full refund. You can complain to the retailer over the phone or in writing using this letter template. 

You can return something you’ve ordered if you change your mind 

If you no longer want an item you purchased online (even if it isn’t faulty), you have the right to change your mind. 

Under Consumer Contracts Regulations, you have a 14-day window from the day you receive your goods to contact the retailer. You then have a further 14 days to return the item. 

Unless faulty, items bought in-store can only be exchanged or returned for a refund if the store has a returns policy. This isn’t required by law, but most retailers do have one. If they do, they’re legally required to honour it. 

If the retailer you bought from has a returns policy, you should be able to find it on the receipt. Otherwise, check their website. 

Bear in mind that perishable and personalised goods are usually excluded from these rules. 

Your rights might be different if your order was placed with a company based outside of the UK. 

For more information on your consumer rights, visit Citizens Advice. 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

woman on the phone with a damaged parcel woman on the phone with a damaged parcel