What to do if your summer purchases are delayed - from shopping and return laws to beating the shortages

Resolver consumer expert Martyn James provides some top tips if you're looking to spend this summer on anything from building supplies to garden furniture

From builder’s supplies to gazebos and spas, up to two-thirds of UK retailers are experiencing delays getting goods to the UK – with four out of five expressing concerns they’ll run out of stock within a month.

Because of the impact of the pandemic and reduced production, increasing consumer demand and other factors like Brexit bureaucracy and even the Suez canal blockage, import delays and challenges with meeting customer demand are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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From builder’s supplies to gazebos and spas, up to two-thirds of UK retailers are experiencing delays getting goods to the UK – with four out of five expressing concerns they’ll run out of stock within a month. (Pic: Shutterstock)

Here are a few tips on your consumer rights if you’ve ordered goods that don’t turn up – or are looking to source some in less traditional ways!

Shopping and returns – the main rules

The Consumer Rights Act (which came in to play in October 2015) gives you the bulk of your shopping rights.

The act covers goods and services and whether they are ‘satisfactory quality, as described or fit for purpose’. If the goods you buy don’t fit in to these categories you can seek a refund, replacement or repair depending on when things go wrong.

Under the law, if those goods don’t turn up within the first 30 days of ordering, you can ask for a full refund. There are exceptions though, so if you’ve ordered something tailored or bespoke, then this may not apply.

Delivery dates

You are entitled to expect your goods to be delivered on the agreed date that you were given when your order was placed. If no date was given or agreed, the trader must get your purchases to you within 30 days of the order being placed. If this does not happen, you are entitled to a full refund.

This is stated in the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (formerly the Distance Selling Regulations applied) if you fancy getting all factual with a stubborn seller. If you paid a supplement for a specified time or date of delivery, you can ask for this back.

Goods bought from retailers abroad

Problems with orders from other countries are one of the fastest growing areas of complaint, as more and more foreign firms target your wallet through online websites and social media advertisements.

Returns can also be difficult and expensive. So before you buy from a non-UK firm, check:

- If they have a UK website. Look for a UK address and confirm in writing that they are sending from the UK though.

- If the prices are in Sterling. If it’s not you pay the exchange rate at the point the firm debits you, so it can fluctuate quite a bit. You will probably pay bank or credit card processing charges too.

- What the policy is for returns and how to contact the firm if something goes wrong.

- If there will be import taxes and charges when the goods enter the country.

How to beat the shortages

We live on a collection of islands, so no matter how canny you are, the reality is, some things will just take a little longer to get here. You’ll need to think of that before you commission, say, builders to do some work in your home (don’t pay cash in hand or you’ll face a battle in the courts if the work doesn’t get done). If you are a DIY buff, then plan everything out, but don’t start knocking down walls just yet.

However, you might be able to get your goods through other means. Recent reports of liquidation sales of businesses that have gone bust in the pandemic can lead to a few bargains for some of the more in-demand items, like garden furniture. There’s also a huge and thriving market for the resale of goods both like new and used (think beyond eBay). Aim for sites who specialise in certain sectors, like camping goods, for example.

Pop yourself on a reserve list if you don’t mind waiting for a bit. It’s likely that many people will cancel orders due to timescales not being met, so make sure you’re first in the queue. This will be easier if you build a relationship with a local shop – which also helps the local economy too!

- Resolver helped sort out over a quarter of a million online shopping complaints last year. Get help and find out more about your rights here: www.resolvergroup.com.