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Citizens Advice says problems with parcels cost consumers at least £85 million a year

5 December 2019

As many Black Friday and Cyber Monday deliveries arrive this week and Christmas shopping ramps up, Citizens Advice has found problems with parcels affect over half (59%) of those who shopped online in the past year.

Citizens Advice estimates UK consumers have lost at least £85 million because of parcel problems in the last year. The average cost to the individual who had to pay out of pocket to fix a parcel problem is £15.50. This could include making telephone calls, replacing damaged or lost items, or travel to return the item in person or drop off at a depot.

The charity, which is the statutory consumer advocate for postal services, says the scale of the problem with parcels is a sign of a broken market, rather than simply isolated bad practice.

Problems include parcels being left in an insecure location, delivery instructions being ignored, damaged contents, and parcels arriving late or not at all. For 1 in 6 people, a parcel delivery going wrong caused stress or anxiety.  

Citizens Advice found it takes on average 2 hours to fix a parcel problem for those who took the time to do so. Over half of people who tried to address their most recent parcel problem experienced further issues, such as struggling to find contact information or having to chase up their complaint multiple times. 

The research found only 1 in 3 online shoppers couldn’t find contact information to address their problem. The same proportion also didn’t receive any information about their consumer rights. 

The charity is urging retailers to use its best practice guide for complaints handling to make it easier for consumers to find solutions to parcel problems. 

 Case study:

Emily ordered two parcels online. She received a text to say they had been delivered, but there was no sign of the parcels and no slip posted through her door. Emily tried to contact the delivery company but couldn’t get through to speak to anyone. Emily contacted the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice. She then tried the retailers - one of whom ignored her emails, and the other said the issue has nothing to do with them. In the end she found that her parcels were delivered to a neighbour a few doors down at the wrong address.

 Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: 

“More of us now rely on parcel delivery services as we shop online for convenience and to access the best deals. Around 94% of UK adults received an online order in the last year.  

“Problems with parcels can be incredibly frustrating, and can be especially disruptive for people who rely on deliveries like people with disabilities.

“The scale of these problems doesn’t come down just to bad practice - it indicates a wider problem with the parcel market as a whole. Right now parcel companies don’t always act in the best interest of consumers. That’s why we’re asking the Competition and Markets Authority to review this to make sure it works for people using it.”

Know your rights: 

  • Consumers contracts are with the retailer you purchase goods from, not the parcel delivery company. 
  • It’s the retailer’s responsibility to ensure parcels are delivered, even if parcel delivery companies directly interact with the consumer about delivery. 
  • If you face a problem with a parcel, get in touch with your retailer directly. 

Best practice guide for parcel carriers to complaints handling: 

  • Offer a range of ways people can get in touch such as telephone and email, including a free option.
  • Acknowledge a complaint within 24 hours, explain what’s gone wrong and the appeal process with timescales.
  • Explain and apologise when things go wrong.
  • Refund and compensate consumers when appropriate. 
  • Publish complaint data including complaint volumes and outcomes.

Notes to editors

  1. In August 2019, Opinium ran a survey of 5,006 UK adults. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK population. In September 2019, we followed up the survey with some targeted questions on Opinium’s omnibus survey that reached 2,000 UK adults. Both surveys included boosts to allow analysis of parcel delivery in each nation of the UK.

  2. Citizens Advice analysis estimates that UK consumers spent £85 million because of parcel delivery problems in the last year. 5% of survey respondents spent money resolving a parcel problem that occurred within the last 6 months. On average, they spent £15.50 each. 5% of the UK adult population is 2.75 million people. 2.75 million * £15.50 = £42.5 million. Therefore, UK consumers spent £42.5 million in the last 6 months as a result of their most recent problem. Extending this over the course of a year gives £85 million spent by consumers resolving parcel problems in the past year.

  3. Citizens Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  4. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
  5. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
  6. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
  7. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  8. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit
  9. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 to talk in Welsh.
  10. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  11. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.