/ Shopping

Did you have an online order vanish last year?

Package delivery

As online shopping becomes ever more popular it would seem we have a growing problem with package deliveries. 3.6 million of us had a package go astray last year. Did this happen to you?

How well do you remember 1995? Robson and Jerome were riding high in the charts with their timeless cover of Unchained Melody, Toy Story was the king of the box office and a couple of little known companies called Ebay and Amazon kicked off their online sales businesses.

Fast forward to today where 9 in 10 of us have internet access: online sales now account for more than 12% of all retail sales in the UK and Amazon alone made £6.3bn of sales in the UK last year.

But all of these orders need to be delivered somewhere.

£250m online orders missing

According to research carried out by Opinium for the insurer Direct Line, over the past year more than £250m worth of online shopping has either gone missing or not been delivered.

And it’s estimated that around 3.6 million of us had packages we’d ordered online go missing last year – worth an average £69 per package.

Is there cause for concern that as much as £250m worth of online shopping could have just vanished in 2015?

Or is it a price we’re willing to pay so we’re able order whatever we want, whenever we want safe from the loving embrace of our sofas?

And, importantly, where the hell is this £250m worth of online shopping?

Your delivery rights

Fortunately, if your order does go missing you have fairly comprehensive legal protection.

Did you know that the retailer is responsible for the safe delivery of your order? Not the courier company and certainly not you. So don’t get fobbed off!

This means that if any order fails to turn up the retailer is in breach of contract, and you’re perfectly within your rights to demand a full refund, or the dispatch of a replacement item.

The Consumer Rights Act also introduced a default delivery period of 30 days during which the retailer needs to deliver, unless a longer period has been agreed. Failure to do so constitutes a breach of contract.

Over to you

Are you one of the possible 3.6 million people who’ve had a delivery go astray? Or maybe it’s cropped up in a rather unexpected place – a wheelie bin, behind the car, or underneath the garden gnome perhaps?

dieseltaylor says:
29 August 2016

Surveys, got to love the inches of media they gain for sponsors. : )

SO I will take the bait and add to the the column inches by wondering how reliable are these surveys really.

Not clear is whether the survey was on-line, by phone, or face to face so as with most surveys how reliable are they. Replicating the UK population does not necessarily replicate the buying habits and losses. The other features for the media using the story –

Notes to editors:
1. This figure is based on an estimated even split of packages go missing / are undelivered each year over the last five years.
2. Opinium Research interviewed a UK nationally representative sample of 2,011 people, between 17th and 21st June 2016.
3. 728 out of 2011 have had packages go missing. As a percentage of the population (50,909,000) this equates to 18,429,514.
4. 496 out of 2011 ask for packages not to be left with neighbours. As a percentage of the population (50,909,000), this equates to 12,556,368 people.

The interesting part is the neighbourliness aspects. Perhaps Which? could cover the 7% of neighbours who took in parcels and denied it!. What are the legal aspects. And how do you prove it was not the delivery driver being dishonest or simply at the wrong address?

Table one: Why people ask for packages not to be left with a neighbour
Reason Percentage
I don’t want to burden my neighbour with my packages 45%
My neighbour works and would not be in to collect it 32%
I don’t get on with my neighbour 14%
I don’t trust my neighbour 14%
I have never spoken to / don’t know my neighbour 9%
The package is personal / likely to cause embarrassment 8%
My neighbour refuses to take in my packages 8%
My neighbour has previously taken in a package of mine and denied it 7%
My neighbour has previously refused to give me a package 5%
Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2016


What would be interesting to know would be the number of people who never got their goods even after reporting the failed delivery to the retailer. All the other ‘disappointments’ should be temporary.

A ‘signature’ on a delivery sheet or hand-held computer is not conclusive proof of delivery to an address. I think the industry should come up with something better, such as photographic evidence of the person taking in the package. Once presented with a ‘delivery’ signature the retailer might try to reject a claim for non-delivery but the customer should persist.

From the crime and security point of view, a postcoded breakdown of this problem would be useful but this survey is nowhere near good enough [only 2000 people]. The number of households where it happens more than once a year would also be interesting.

The UK population is around 65 million so I presume the 51 million figure used in the extrapolations in points 3 and 4 of the ‘Notes to editors’ has taken out everybody under eighteen who cannot place on-line orders, but that is not clear. Can we presume that those over a certain age, people without on-line facilities, people in prison, those in permanent residential or hospital care, etc, have also been left out of the arithmetic?

Amazon, in particular, are very imprecise with their expected delivery timescales and frequently deliver earlier than the first date in the ‘window’ stated on ordering – many times it is only by luck that one of us has been in when a package arrived; we now factor this into our domestic arrangements when placing orders. We have actually dramatically reduced the number of orders we are placing on-line but the tide is still running strongly in the on-line direction. The performance quality of the carrier has become the critical factor now. and I would say that only a few firms are consistently reliable.


This Convo assumes the “survey” is accurate. I am not convinced that extrapolation from 2011 “representative” people to 50, 909,000 is valid. And why Direct Line? I would have thought it much easier to ask the major on-line retailers, from Amazon, e-bay, down to people like john Lewis, to supply the figures from their records – presumably they log all deliveries not received? Does this also include packages not delivered because you were out with no alternative?

The high average value of “missing” goods suggests a degree of theft; I would imagine any delivery company that saw regular failures to deliver would soon pin it down to particular dishonest individuals and put a stop to it.

I know I’m a cynic, but the alleged scale of this and the weak basis leaves me a little unconvinced. I’d like much more robust research to support what is claimed. I have never has a parcel go missing, which proves absolutely nothing.


. . . . and since Direct Line have done the ‘research’ there is not much point in using a precious Which? Conversation slot for this piece which doesn’t actually take us any further forward with possible solutions to some of the failed-delivery problems identified.

I presume Which? are not suggesting any legislative changes, so what are needed are practical changes to improve the service reliability of on-line shopping [given that it now accounts for 12% of retail activity and has driven the alternatives out of the market place]. Realistic delivery forecasts would be a good starting point. And allowing customers to specify the action in the event of the driver not getting an answer at the right address [many, including Amazon, provide no facility for this]. The best retailers use carriers with excellent tracking systems – M&S are poor in that respect. Click-&-Collect only works if you are near a collection point – more could be done to improve that system.

While I would not advocate any restrictions on its scope, the Consumer Rights Act does enable an unhelpful level of customer dishonesty that increases the cost of shopping by all channels.

We think on-line shopping is so wonderful. I can remember my mother ringing up a local department store where she had an account and her order would be delivered the next day by the company’s own van [properly wrapped and presented too].


Hello all, just popping in here. I just wanted to share that we didn’t assume that this survey was accurate – we wrote that ‘according to’ the survey and that a certain value of goods ‘could’ have gone missing. The survey acts as a good conversation starter, which also allows us to highlight that people do have consumer rights when it comes to lost goods, which is linked to from this piece.

We’d also love to hear real life examples from people on whether they have had goods lost in the post and what experience they had with the retailer and whether they used their consumer rights. These quantitative stories are often what’s key to telling the real story, which is why we might present some stats and ask for views related to it to find out a clearer picture. I hope that you’re also interested in those stories coming to light.


@patrick, when one of the Which? staff introduces a topic like this I believe that readers will assume they accept the facts that are presented. Otherwise it as just another misleading Convo where people jump to the wrong conclusions. Why do that? Surely a similar Convo that is based on authenticated and accurate information should be the aim, or else not publish at all.

I detect some frustration from some contributors when Convos seem designed to provoke rather than inform, or distort the facts to create a misleading impression. What is it meant to achieve? I note the “would you pay to complain about an airline” is still as misleading as it was. It would be so much more useful to re-write the intro in a clear, accurate and informative way that would not only save people getting heated about a situation that isn’t, but also make the poll of more use – if that was re-written also. But all too late now, probably.

I think Which? should be seen as an organisation that deals with issues in a fair, balanced and informative way. Perhaps I am the only member who does. 🙂

Its too hot; roll on winter. 🙁


Malcolm I understand your frustration but unfortunately answers to life’s problems rarely come across as black or white but brimming with each and everyone’s contrasting grey areas. For example, your last sentence clearly portrays your feelings about today’s heat but some folk love it for lots of different reasons pertaining to themselves.

Let’s hear everyone’s version of events, it all adds appeal and intrigue to the way in which people relate to certain circumstances in their lives and the way in which they deal with them according to their own individual perspective and vision.

I have always viewed Which?Convo’s introduction to a topic as a means of extracting and sharing people’s contrasting opinions and life experiences and less of a way of expecting it to provide black or white factual and/or tangible information, other than that of course relating to the most exceptional and significant of events.


I enjoy the ebb and flow of the Conversations and reading the contrasting and conflicting comments of the contributors, but I expect the Intro to be a reliable piece of non-fiction [except on All Fools Day] and to have sound journalistic credentials without misrepresentation, distortion, and tendentiousness. I have no objection to articles being biased in favour of consumers’ interests but the underlying facts should presented fairly and objectively. Where this hasn’t happened [e.g. on the airline complaints topic] a lot of people were led to entirely the wrong understanding of the issue and the discussion started at a tangent losing all its value in terms of the benefits to airline passengers and with people believing they should have to take their cases [when they turn up!] to the County Court.

There are so many consumer problems that have not yet been flogged to death in these Conversations so why take a dodgy survey as the starting point for yet another series of rants about parcel deliveries and without offering any suggestions for improvement? No parcel companies have been disturbed in the making of this Conversation . . . . which is a shame.


But Malcolm has a very good point. He’s not against hearing everyone’s version of events, but whether it all adds ‘appeal and intrigue’ is questionable when Which? is attempting to gauge opinion on a contentious issue. What a mildly ambiguous (or misleading) headline does, of course, in to increase engagement of the public at large with what is, at its core, a problem for many, but I suspect it involves a fair bit of sorting of comments before any meaningful harvesting can begin.

I tend to sympathise with Malcolm’s frustration in this as I dislike the same tactic when employed by the egregious DFM, for instance, and my preference would be for Which? to be more precise and less…electrifying in its mission to attract different demographic groups. But it does provide Which? with ammunition in sheer statistics when choosing their battleground.


While not disturbed by Which,s Convo, Hermes was certainly disturbed – John , by a security camera a customer had showing a female delivery driver bring a parcel to the side gate of the customers property but was stopped because the gate was locked –she lifted the parcel and threw it into his back yard – plain as day. He posted it on the web on a well known social organisation and it had over 4000 hits in a short time , and yes John I watched it. Now that got a reply from Hermes amounting to -we will talk to the delivery driver. This brought in a deluge of posters complaining about the company.


Beryl, when it’s Winter I actually want Spring to roll on. Not keen on wet cold weather. I suppose I’m fickle. What I do not like is being misled by what should be a responsible organisation.

My trust (that’s the word Which? use a lot) in Which? is becoming slightly tarnished. Since it is the prime representative of consumers what worries me as to who else could stand up for us if others begin to doubt its motives. My concern here is that putting forward a possibly unsound set of “facts” to stimulate constructive discussion is rather a waste of time, and leads to misconceptions. “I just wanted to share that we didn’t assume that this survey was accurate”. What is the point when so many other topics warrant attention.

Perhaps Which? could assemble real facts about failed, lost and stolen deliveries for another Convo? As I suggested earlier I imagine the major on-line retailers will have plenty of genuine statistics; maybe even the “common carriers”, as John rightly describes them, will.


Yes, and it happened to us too, more than once – coming home and finding parcels ‘delivered’ by Hermes lying, wet through, along the side path. And there was an earlier Conversation which brought forth scores of tales from contributors about the behaviour of this and one or two other delivery companies. But because the stories just kept coming I am convinced the company took no notice and did absolutely nothing about it. They probably never thoroughly investigated any alleged misconduct by their delivery drivers so long as they were still being paid by the traders who consigned their orders to them for delivery. We stopped ordering goods from firms who used Hermes and another carrier and informed these suppliers of our reasons for doing so, but I suspect nothing has changed because we still see the Hermes driver in our area. So despite all the publicity the company remains undisturbed. If they relied on customers to choose who should deliver their parcels it might be different, but since the decisions are made within the consignor companies who might be more concerned with cost than quality of service nothing will change for the better. That is why I urge people with parcel delivery problems to take it up with the supplier and persist – as it says in the Intro: ” . . . don’t get fobbed off”.