Deliver us from evil – avoiding disappointment when ordering online

5 min read
January 24, 2023

Purse strings may be drawn tight, but online shopping opens up many possibilities for being left out of pocket.

In 2021 Britons are estimated to have spent 250 billion pounds online shopping. But shockingly, 12% of packages never make it to their recipients and are reported as lost or undelivered.

Over the festive period, we’ve been flooded with questions from Resolver users who’ve experienced a variation of the same scenario. After spending a little extra on that special something, or a gift for that special someone, weeks pass, nothing has turned up and the company is uncontactable or unresponsive. In some cases, the long-awaited parcel was shown as ‘delivered’ yet all the customer has ended up with is a photo of it stuffed behind an unfamiliar bin or on someone else’s doorstep. In others, the item did arrive but is faulty or not as described and the company wants to charge for a return or refuses to issue a refund. 

When it comes to shopping online, knowing your rights is critical. Our rights guide will help you understand what protections exist when it comes to returns, refunds, and faulty goods. But seeing our users struggling with the fallout of festive buying, we wanted to underline some key points to help you make smarter choices in 2023, from how to be more canny online shoppers and knowing who to chase up in cases of non-deliveries.

1. Do your own research and check online retailers’ reviews before ordering. 

The first and most important way to ensure that anything you order will actually arrive is to be cautious about who you order from. In many cases we see, the customer may be in the right, and have all the evidence on their side, but if the retailer they’ve ordered from is not reputable there may be no way to get a refund other than going to small claims court – an expensive and time-consuming solution!

Websites like Trustpilot are there to help you to suss out a company before giving them your hard-earned cash. Do your own research and find out what other customers have experienced, whether the promised goods actually arrived and, if they didn’t, how good the company was at sorting a refund or replacement. In many cases, a quick online search will show whether a company has let down other customers and save you a lot of time, money, and trouble. 

2. Don’t just get mad, get the retailer to help you. 

One of the most common issues we see these days is packages that are shown as ‘delivered’ but have not been received by the customer. Whether it’s an unfamiliar street or someone else’s feet, many of you have received an image that makes your stomach sink, knowing that a courier has left your precious package somewhere entirely inappropriate. What’s more, the complaints process for some delivery companies can be slow, time-consuming, or tricky to navigate, making such situations seem hopeless. 

The delivery company or courier may be the obvious culprit in such scenarios, but it is the retailer who has a contract with them. The retailer is responsible for your order until you receive it and should be there to offer support and help you chase up delivery issues. If your package has not been delivered to you, try and get the retailer involved and supportive of your complaint as quickly as possible. Once you have provided evidence that the package has not been delivered, the retailer will be able to help you make the delivery company investigate and issue a refund or replacement. 

3. Check the returns policy and how far the item is coming from. 

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: always read the small print before you press ‘pay now’. In many cases we see, a user has unknowingly agreed to T&C’s which means that if they want to return a package, a refund may only be offered in store credit. Once you’ve agreed to these terms, there is almost nothing you can do, even if the item is not as described or faulty. 

Another important thing to remember is that if an item is being shipped from overseas there will be custom fees to pay. This would need to be paid again if the item is returned to the seller. This includes instances where the item is not as described or has been sent back because it could not be delivered. In almost all cases the company will make the customer pay for this – even if it is not their fault that the package was sent back. So as well as being more eco-friendly, ordering from local sellers is the best bet to saving yourself trouble on returns should something go wrong.

4. Use online selling platforms which offer extra protection. 

If you are keen on supporting small businesses or buying vintage or second-hand items you may want to use websites like Etsy or eBay. It may seem riskier to order goods from individual sellers, as they appear less accountable than a big brand. Thankfully though, many selling platforms have their own processes to ensure that you are protected. 

If something goes wrong, you should take the issue up with the seller first. However, if you don’t get anywhere, all hope is not lost. Most big selling sites will have a process for investigating any problems that arise between sellers and customers. This ensures that you can obtain a refund even when the seller is being uncooperative. So if there is something unique that you want to order, but are worried about lack of protection or seller accountability, remember to check out what processes the site may have in place to offer you more reassurance.

5. Don’t let impatience make you vulnerable and watch out for delivery scams. 

In the last few years, there has been a huge increase in online scams that take advantage of people waiting on packages. Scammers will try to trick customers into thinking there is a problem with their delivery by sending an email or text requesting them to provide personal information or make a payment to resolve it. These scams can be really convincing and easy to fall for. 

Keep track of what orders and deliveries you may be expecting (or not). If you receive an email or text message from a courier or delivery company asking you to pay a customs fee, confirm your address, or make some other action to receive your package, be very cautious. Remember not to respond or click any links in a text or email. Go directly to the company’s website instead and check on the status of your delivery there. 


That’s all for now, but remember that Resolver is here to help you raise your complaints and stay informed about your rights. If you have any questions that our rights guides don’t answer, get in touch with We’ll do our best to direct you toward the best path for resolving whatever issue you are dealing with. 

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