Consumer complaint letter about goods bought from a business, damaged during delivery (England & Wales)

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What's a template consumer complaint letter about goods bought from a business and apparently damaged during delivery, and when do you need one?

Use this letter when you want to raise a complaint about an item that you’ve bought from another business in England and Wales and that appears to have been damaged during delivery.

If you’re a business wanting to complain about another business, not a consumer, please use our separate business complaints suites.

If you want to complain about faulty goods that you don’t believe have been damaged during delivery, but which were defective beforehand, please use our separate template letter consumer complaint about faulty goods bought from a business.

And if your complaint is about faulty digital content/goods, see our separate complaint template letter: Consumer letter complaining about poor digital content/download experience.

If you want to complain about faulty goods included within a service that you’ve purchased, our template consumer complaint about faulty goods sold together with a service letter is your ideal starting point instead.

Whatever your complaint, it’s always advisable to give the seller a chance to remedy the situation and this letter is drafted for that purpose.

Your rights when goods get damaged

If your goods are damaged in transit, don’t turn up when they should, go astray/get stolen (up to the point when they’re handed to you, or to your neighbour or safe place if you’ve consented to this), it’s the retailer who needs to sort this out for you, but you should act reasonably fast to ensure that you don’t lose the chance to claim your rights – or end up in an undesirable argument with the retailer, who may try to argue that you caused the damage yourself, in the time since delivery.)

You also need to be clear (in the case of goods going stray or being stolen), that the circumstances have not been caused/exacerbated by unsafe or inadvisable arrangements that you’ve put in place.)

Even if you signed a delivery receipt for a delivery company to confirm that you’ve taken possession of the goods, that does not mean that you’ve accepted/consented to receive damaged goods – your rights and the retailer’s obligations relating to the goods remain the same. Some experts recommend writing ‘taken but not inspected’ on any delivery card or delivery confirmation that you’re asked to sign, but if you did not have chance to do this/forgot, it’s not going to change your rights (it just makes any potential argument later on a bit easier for you).

UK consumer rights law treats damage to goods while they’re being delivered in the same way as a faulty goods claim (see more on faulty goods below). So, if goods get damaged by a carrier company, that’s the retailer’s problem, not yours. Your contract, assuming, like most contacts, that it contains a complete and satisfactory delivery obligation on the retailer, is with the retailer (according to s.29 of the 2015 Act).

And so your right to reject and demand a refund should start on the day that you took physical possession of the goods.

Capture the evidence

Take photos at the time you receive the damaged goods – both of any packaging and the item itself. If the photos are date-stamped this helps, but it’s wise to also email those photos to yourself on the same day that the photos are taken. Then you have clear evidence of the timing and should be able to reduce the effectiveness of any retailer argument that you caused the damage yourself.

Most reputable retailers will not act unreasonably in these circumstances, but they are likely to be more suspicious and sceptical of your claim the more time passes between the delivery date and you notifying them and sending evidence.

If the retailer does claim you caused the damage, they have to prove that this is true if you’ve brought your claim within 6 months of buying the goods - which most people would do! That’s not an easy thing to prove, unless, as some retailers and their carrier companies have taken to do, the delivery person takes a time-stamped photo of the parcel as it is handed to you/left with your neighbour or safe place, and they keep that as their own record of safe delivery.

Do not accept any assertion by the retailer that the correct person for you to complain to is the delivery company, or any suggestion that their insurance will protect you. This is not correct, but it is a tactic that has often been attempted by unscrupulous retailers.

Returning the goods

If the retailer wants you to post the goods back to them, rather than to send a courier to collect them, and this request is reasonable given the type of goods you’ve bought and your personal circumstances, then make sure you get their agreement to reimburse you for the costs of returning the goods to them.

If, for example, the item is awkward or heavy, and you will have to take a taxi to the post-office or a courier company in order to return it, you’ll want to agree that the retailer will cover these costs also.

Ask the retailer to confirm also that they will ensure the goods are insured against any further damage during their return to them. The Consumer Rights Act makes very clear that you should not be responsible for covering the cost of that return where goods are damaged or faulty (or not fit for purpose or as described) even if the seller’s terms and conditions say use wording such as ‘items are returned at the purchaser’s expense’.

Faulty goods and your consumer rights

Consumers buying from a business seller are legally entitled to goods that:

  • are ‘of a satisfactory quality’
  • match their description at/before the point of sale
  • are suitable (‘fit’) for the purpose for they are described as intended, and
  • last for a reasonable amount of time

You may be entitled to a refund, repair or replacement if there’s a problem with something you’ve bought. This is the case irrespective of whether the goods are brand new, on offer/discounted/in a sale, or second-hand.

These rights are triggered if what you bought is:

  • broken or damaged ('not of satisfactory quality')
  • unusable (‘not fit for purpose’)
  • not what was advertised, or doesn’t match the seller’s description

However, by contrast, you won’t have these rights if what you bought was:

  • damaged by normal wear and tear, an accident or due to your (or someone else’s) misuse of the item
  • you knew about the fault before you bought the item
  • there’s nothing wrong with the product, but you’ve just changed your mind (in which case, no matter what you bought, it’s down to the seller to determine what rights they want to give you. Many retailers chose to give customers a right to change their mind and to return items in an unused condition within a given time frame, but they’re not legally obliged to do so).

When you buy goods in the UK, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (at section 22) says that you have a 30-day right to reject them and demand a refund; and the clock starts ticking from the date that you take physical ownership of those goods – which in many cases for everyday purchases, will be the moment you take the goods away from the store where you bought them.

However, if you bought online or you ordered in store and arranged for home delivery, for example, the clock does not start ticking on those 30 days until the goods are in fact delivered to you.

Don’t forget that if you have an arrangement where you agree to goods being left with a neighbour or in a ‘safe place’ that you nominate, then delivery to you and the date of your ownership starts on the day when the goods are delivered to your neighbour or left in your safe place. Your 30-day right to reject the goods and get a refund starts on that date.

After 30 days, you’re not legally entitled to a full refund if the goods develop a fault, although many sellers will offer an extended refund period. If you’re outside the 30 day period, you must give the retailer the opportunity, once, to repair or to replace the faulty goods. Which remedy you get is normally the retailer’s choice (and they’ll normally opt for the least costly/easiest remedy for them), but you of course specify what you’d prefer.

If you don’t reach a satisfactory repair/replacement outcome, then legally, you can claim a refund or, if you still want to keep the goods, a price reduction. However, there are a few scenarios where it would be reasonable for you to request a full or a partial refund.

These include where:

  • it’s going to cost more/almost as much to replace/repair the goods, as you paid for them
  • it’s not possible to do a repair or replacement
  • it would cause significant disruption/inconvenience to you to repair or replace the goods, or
  • repairing the goods would take an unreasonable amount of time.

If an attempt to repair the goods fails, or it’s just not possible to do repair or to replace them, or any replacement turns out to be faulty as well, you can reject the goods and to claim 100% refund of what you paid.

There’s an exception for used cars here and you can find out more on this here.

Complaints process

Most businesses these days have a website on which they display their contact details and often, the terms and conditions under which they sell (even if they’re not selling online). Take a look at these as they may (and ideally should) contain information about how you can complain to them and the time frames and rights they give you.

Keep copies of all your correspondence and any attached documents, such as receipts, copies of guarantees/warranties that you have activated (if relevant), etc. Some businesses will have self-imposed, or legally imposed deadlines for responding to you and for resolving your complaint. If they refer to these deadlines in their documentation, make sure you reference them in this letter too.

Taking your complaint further

If you’re not satisfied with the response you get from the seller, then you can:

  • find out if they have an ombudsman or other professional standards body to whom you can complain (sadly there isn’t really one for standard retailers); or
  • you could consider complaining to Trading Standards; (Bear in mind, though, that your local trading standards department's role is to address the issue with the retailer, not to get your money back), or
  • you could, depending on the supplier’s terms, suggest alternative dispute resolution/mediation.
  • You might be able to rely on your card or payment provider for help, if you paid by a credit or debit card, you used a provider like Paypal, or your purchase was financed by a hire purchase company.
  • Finally, you can consider a claim brought in the courts, though this can be costly and take some time to be heard.

Before taking any of those steps, it is highly advisable to see if you can get the seller to provide you with what’s often called a ‘letter of deadlock’, essentially, a letter confirming that the seller has not been able to resolve your complaint and you remain dissatisfied.

This is a key piece of evidence, in your favour, that supports you seeking assistance from the above solution providers, proving that you have reasonably tried to reach a resolution on your own and been unable to do so. If you can’t get one, it doesn’t mean that you can’t complain to any of these dispute solution providers, but having it will typically help to speed matters up.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you have 6 years to bring a faulty goods claim in the courts. Scotland has a 5-year time limit. That doesn’t mean that the goods you bought need to last 6 (or 5 years), simply that you won’t be able to bring claim about these faulty goods once these time periods have expired.

Help now and later

If you’d like help with your complaint and/or considering your options, you can use our speak to an adviser service, where a qualified expert can talk you through your options, and help you to decide the right next steps for you. Our guide: how to bring a consumer complaint against a business, contains more background and instructions on the wider context of consumer complaints and what to expect.

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