What to do if your parcel gets lost

What happens if your parcel goes missing while being delivered? Find out what to do, and whether you can claim on your home insurance.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 31 January 2022  | 3 mins read

Online shopping is more popular than ever. According to the Office for National Statistics, over 29% of all retail sales in 2021 were made on the internet.

That means billions of packages shipped and delivered to doors throughout the UK.

But what happens if your parcel gets lost, or arrives damaged? Who’s to blame, who do you complain to and could you claim on your home insurance?

Key points

  • When you buy something online, your contract is with the retailer, not the courier, so you should contact them if a parcel goes missing
  • In most cases, you should be entitled to a replacement or refund from the retailer when a package gets lost
  • If you designate a safe place for delivery and your item goes missing, then it’s your responsibility if it goes missing

What do I do if my parcel isn’t delivered?

If you’re expecting a parcel but it hasn’t arrived, you should contact the retailer. It’s their responsibility to ensure you receive your order safely and it’s up to them to get in touch with the delivery company and find out what’s happened.

In most cases, your retailer will arrange for a replacement to be delivered to you when your original parcel has gone missing. You’re entitled to ask them to do this.

You could ask for a refund instead - for example if the item didn’t arrive in time for a certain event and you no longer want it.

If you’re buying from a private seller on an online marketplace and your parcel goes missing, you can contact the seller to let them know your parcel hasn’t arrived. They should refund you, but if they quibble about it or refuse to give your money back, you can go through the marketplace’s dispute process to get your money back.

Who is responsible if my parcel goes missing?

Many people think that the courier is liable when a parcel they’re delivering goes missing. But it’s actually up to the seller to replace your missing item or refund you.

What happens if I need to pay fees?

If you’ve bought items from a company located outside of the UK, you may be required to pay fees and your goods won’t be delivered until they’ve been paid.

This could include delivery fees, VAT and customs duty. It’s important to watch out for these when making purchases as they can be quite costly.

What if my parcel was delivered to a ‘safe place’ but it’s not there anymore?

If you specify to a retailer or courier company that you’re happy for a parcel to be delivered to a safe place and it subsequently goes missing, then it’s not the retailer’s or courier’s responsibility.

By agreeing to have your parcel left in a place of your choosing (like a porch or garage), you took the risk that it might go astray.

It’s still worth contacting the retailer, though, to ask if they’d consider sending out a replacement anyway.

It’s a different issue if the delivery company left your item somewhere ‘safe’, like in your bin or by the back door, without your permission. If that happens, and the item goes missing, then you’re entitled to a refund or replacement from the retailer.

Be careful when accepting the terms and conditions of a retailer or delivery company. Read through them carefully, because you may be agreeing to ‘safe place delivery’ or ‘delivery to a neighbour’ when you don’t mean to.

If your parcel is stolen from anywhere then you should report it to the police.

What if my parcel was delivered to my neighbour but they say it wasn’t?

If you gave permission for your parcel to be delivered to that neighbour and it goes missing, then the retailer is not responsible.

However, if the parcel was delivered to the neighbour without your permission, you can claim breach of contract with the seller. It’s their responsibility to sort out the issue and you should be entitled to a replacement or refund.

What if my parcel was damaged?

If your parcel arrives damaged and the goods inside are damaged, too, you should complain to the retailer rather than the delivery company. That’s the case even if you think the parcel was damaged by the delivery company.

It’s the retailer’s responsibility that your purchase arrives in good condition.

Take photos of the damage to the parcel, and of the damaged goods inside. Then contact the retailer right away to request a refund or replacement.

What if my parcel was delivered to the wrong address?

Again, it’s the seller’s responsibility to ensure the package is delivered to the correct address and to put things right if it wasn’t.

Check that you supplied the correct address and then complain to the retailer.

Can you claim on home insurance for a lost parcel?

If a parcel is stolen from outside your home, then you probably wouldn’t have a claim on your home insurance. Even if the parcel was stolen from a safe place like your porch, unless the thief broke in to steal it (rather than simply opening an unlocked door to your porch) then you’d probably have no claim, either.

Home insurance will normally only pay out for theft when there’s clear evidence of a break-in, such as forced locks or a smashed window.

Does the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) apply?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 protects you if a delivery doesn’t arrive or your package is damaged when it’s delivered.

Citizen’s Advice has template letters showing you how to complain to the retailer and quote your rights under the CRA.

Can the police help?

According to the police, there’s a growing trend of theft of parcels left unattended on doorsteps by delivery drivers.

You can report this type of theft to your local police.

But you can reduce the risk of doorstep theft by tracking your parcel to ensure someone is at home for delivery. Or arrange for your parcel to be delivered to a trusted neighbour.

If you’re rarely in during the daytime, then getting your parcels delivered to a locker service could be useful, especially for expensive items.

Does it matter how I paid?

The method of payment you use can give you extra protection.

If you paid with a credit card, then items over £100 are protected under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. So, if you’ve unsuccessfully attempted to get a refund from the retailer (or if they go bust), you could make a claim with your credit card provider to get your money back.

Similarly, PayPal offers PayPal Buyer Protection. This means that if an item doesn’t arrive, or if it isn’t as described by the seller, then PayPal can step in to reimburse you for the full purchase price and shipping costs.

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