Seven in 10 disabled consumers have faced delivery problems in the past year, Which? reveals

Which? is calling for online retailers to make it easier for shoppers to specify delivery instructions as new research shows that seven in 10 disabled consumers experienced delivery problems in the last year. 

A joint survey carried out by Which? and the Research Institute of Disabled Consumers found that seven in 10 (72%) disabled consumers surveyed had faced one or more problems with a delivery over the last 12 months. 

Half of those with a delivery issue (53%) said the courier did not wait long enough for them to answer the door and a quarter (25%) said parcels were left in an inaccessible way or that the courier did not provide the help they needed with their disability (24%). 

Worryingly, one in 10 (12%) who experienced problems with deliveries said their parcel was left in a place that potentially could have been dangerous for them to attempt to retrieve. 

More than half (55%) of participants who had problems with a delivery said they informed the retailer and/or the delivery company of their needs. Two in five (41%) of those who spoke to the delivery firm and/or retailer about this said it was difficult to do so.

Caroline from London has experienced problems with receiving deliveries in the past. She said: “The main issue I have is parcels being left on the ground and the delivery driver walking away before I can get to the door. As a wheelchair user, I cannot reach the ground to pick them up. 

“Recently Amazon was due to deliver a package. I received an email telling me my parcel had been delivered. No-one had been to my house so I looked outside my front door and there was my parcel. I then checked my CCTV where I saw, roughly an hour previously, the driver had run up to my door, literally dropped the package outside, didn’t knock [or] ring the doorbell and just ran away.

“Being able to leave delivery instructions is not as obvious as people may think. I never knew this was an option until recently when a company brought my attention to it. When I started using this facility, I found most delivery [or] courier drivers just ignored the instructions. So now I never use them.”

Which? looked at the checkout journeys for 10 of the biggest online retailers, including Amazon, Argos, Asos, Currys, eBay, George at Asda, John Lewis, M&S, Next and Very, and found there was no standard approach across these retailers.

Some retailers offer textboxes with sparse character limits, while others only allow customers to input instructions for certain items. Asos, Currys, George at Asda, M&S and Next currently do not offer any text boxes on their website for customers to specify delivery instructions. 

Even when shoppers did manage to leave delivery instructions, the vast majority found their notes were not followed. Three quarters (77%) of those who notified the delivery company or retailer about their needs found their instructions were not very well or not at all well followed.

Of those who experienced an issue, only one in five (18%) made a complaint to the retailer, one in 10 (11%) to the delivery company, and one in five (18%) to both. Half of participants (50%) did not make a complaint at all, with one in four of them saying they did not think there was any point or that anything would be done about it.

Three in 10 (28%) of those who complained to the retailer found it difficult to do so while seven in 10 (69%) found it difficult to complain to the delivery company.

Four in 10 (39%) of those that filed a complaint with the retailer said they were dissatisfied with the retailer’s approach to dealing with their issue compared to three in 10 (31%) of those who complained to the delivery company.

Ofcom announced plans in December 2021 to introduce stronger protections for disabled consumers, so that delivery firms are required to have policies in place to meet their needs.

Which? is calling on companies to move swiftly to ensure they have systems in place so disabled customers finally have access to safe and reliable delivery services. Online retailers must follow suit and make it easier for shoppers to specify delivery instructions. 

Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, said: 

“During the pandemic, many of us have relied heavily on online shopping so it’s hugely concerning that so many disabled consumers have had frustrating, humiliating or even dangerous experiences with delivery companies. 

“Retailers and delivery companies that are falling short on customer service need to up their game and put effective systems in place so disabled consumers can specify their needs and rely on having parcels delivered in a safe and secure way.” 

Gordon McCullough, CEO at Research Institute of Disabled Consumers said: 

“Unfortunately what we’ve experienced over the last two years is that many services have become even more inaccessible to disabled people, just when they need to rely on them most.”

“The spending power of disabled people and their households is estimated at £274 billion a year to UK businesses, and just like all consumers, disabled consumers are looking to use services and products that work for them. If they don’t, they will shop elsewhere. 

“The changes that are needed in this case are very simple and low cost to implement – listening to people and responding. We hope this research can be both a wake-up call and positive step towards enabling retailers and delivery companies to review their services and ensure they are accessible for all the UK population.”

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