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Who is really responsible if things go wrong with a package? We asked the experts one delivery firm, and here's what they said
It’s a near daily occurrence for plenty of us; the doorbell goes off and there’s a flustered delivery man stood in your doorway.
No, that exotic looking parcel isn’t for you, it’s for your neighbour, but would you mind signing for it?
Having to nip next door to ask for a parcel your neighbour has collected on your behalf is a lot more convenient than having to trek over to your ‘local’ postal depot, which is why many of us are happy to sign for our neighbour’s delivery.
But warnings have been raised that doing so may actually expose you to the risk of a day in court.Whose responsibility?
It is important to note from the outset that when you order something from a retailer, your agreement is with the retailer, not with any third party used during the delivery process.
In other words, if things go wrong, it’s generally up to the retailer rather than the delivery firm to clear them up.
But parcel price comparison site ParcelHero has warned that deliveries which have been signed for by a neighbour present something of a grey area when it comes to consumer rights if there is anything wrong with the delivery.
For example, what happens if your neighbour accepts a parcel on your behalf, but when you open the box the item is damaged?
The retailer will argue that the item is their responsibility up to the point that it is signed for. If no issue with the item is raised at that point, how can you prove that it was damaged in transit and not by the neighbour?
ParcelHero says this will come down to whether you named the neighbour as a delivery option at the outset.
If you did, then the retailer will claim that delivering to them is no different to delivering the item directly to you, which they will use to try to deny you compensation.
However, consumer champions Which? are clear that you can't sign away your rights - just because you or your neighbour signed to confirm the parcel was in good condition, you still have legal rights and should pursue a complaint for a replacement.
If you didn’t give permission for the item to be delivered to the neighbour, then you can claim the retailer is in breach of contract, meaning it can still be considered undelivered and is therefore the responsibility of the vendor.It’s been stolen!
What happens if a neighbour accepts a parcel, only for it to be stolen before you collect it?
Believe it or not, this has happened recently according to ParcelHero, with an elderly gentleman accepting delivery of some dresses for their neighbour.
He then went out, at which point he was burgled, with the thieves making off with the delivery package sat by the front door.
The retailer argued that the order had been delivered safely, so it was no longer the firm’s responsibility.
However, the man’s insurer argued that as the dresses were not his property they are not covered by his home contents insurance.
The final decision hasn’t been made public, though ParcelHero reckons that unless it could be proven that he had failed to take “reasonable care” of the parcel - for example by leaving a door or window wide open - then it is unlikely that the neighbour can be held personally responsible.
Nonetheless the elderly neighbour was threatened with prosecution as a result of the burglary.They signed for it, but now it has disappeared
It’s bad enough if things go wrong when your neighbour is trying to be nice when collecting a delivery on your behalf. But what happens if they accept the delivery, and then deny it, holding onto your goods?
Which? point out that again it all comes down to whether you gave specific delivery instructions to leave the parcel with that neighbour.
If you did, then the seller is not responsible if something goes wrong, but if you didn’t you can claim breach of contract.
As a result you should be entitled to a replacement from the retailer.How to complain
If things do go wrong with a delivery, and the retailer isn’t helping, then it is important to follow their usual complaints process and give them a chance to fix things.
For help with this process, it’s worth a look at complaints serviceResolver.
It’s absolutely free to use and can help you draft your complaint document, provides a single place to keep all of your case details, and advises you on how to raise your complaint to the next level if the retailer doesn’t address your complaint to your satisfaction.
Martyn James of Resolver said: “Countless millions of us feel held hostage by rubbish delivery firms. Lost days off work, damaged goods, faked deliveries and many, many more problems occur - and it's really not acceptable.
"The good news is you shouldn't be fobbed off to the delivery company to complain. The shop you bought the goods from is responsible for the delivery - and if there's any dispute, they should sort it. And if they don't, Resolver can help you make a complaint.”