Shopping online can be a great way to compare products and order the exact item you're looking for with just a few simple clicks. But what happens if your precious new purchase becomes lost or delayed in the post? Or doesn't arrive in time for the birthday or special occasion you bought it for?
In the best case scenario, the package has just been delayed a little by the retailer or courier service, and you can use tracking information to find out where it is.
In the worst cases, the package may have been lost, delivered to the wrong address, the retailer may not have been able to fulfil your order, or you may have been the victim of a scam.
Here are the steps you should follow if a package is missing.
Your first step should always be to check the tracking information.
If you've paid for an item, the seller must supply the product either within the timeframe indicated at time of purchase or in the deliveries information on their website, or within a reasonable timeframe (the ACCC describes "reasonable" as "what most people would think is fair in the circumstances").
If the expected delivery date has passed, and you've received no notification about a delivery attempt or any hold up with the delivery, here's what to do next.
Step 1. Look for tracking information
Check your emails for any tracking information from the retailer or carrier, and see if you can work out where in the delivery process the parcel is.
If the parcel is still out for delivery, you might choose to keep an eye on the tracking app or webpage for a couple of days
Other tracking numbers can be entered into the website of the relevant courier service.
If the parcel is still out for delivery, you might choose to keep an eye on the tracking app or webpage for a couple of days to see if it progresses.
If it does appear to be stuck 'in the system', or the tracking info is saying it's been delivered yet you've not seen it, or there's no tracking info at all for you to check, it's time to contact the retailer you bought it from.
CHOICE tip: If the tracking info says it's been delivered but you haven't seen the parcel, check around your property or with neighbours in case the parcel has been left outdoors or delivered to the wrong address.
Step 2. Contact the retailer
If you can't find any tracking details or other useful info on the whereabouts of your parcel, or the parcel seems to be stuck in transit, contact the retailer with your order number and address.
The retailer may confirm that the parcel wasn't sent, in which case they need to send your order, or refund you if they can no longer fulfill your order. You're also entitled to an explanation in writing as to why it is so late.
If the retailer has sent the parcel but it hasn't arrived, then it's their responsibility to follow up with the courier or postal service they used.
Between them, they need to work out a solution: you can either get the missing parcel replaced, or get a refund.
If the retailer has sent the parcel but it hasn't arrived, then it's their responsibility to follow up
Businesses aren't obligated to give refunds just because the product you've bought is taking longer to arrive, but you are eligible for a refund if they're no longer able to supply it at all.
CHOICE tip: Even though it is the retailer's responsibility to follow up the issue with the courier or postal service, you might choose to contact them yourself if you think it will result in a quicker resolution.
In the Australia Post Help and Support section of its website you can find information on how to track parcels, and advice on what to do if you can't find your delivered parcel. You can report a missing or lost item, and request specific help if your item is urgent, high value or sentimental (examples include time-sensitive documents, passports for urgent travel or clothing for a wedding party or funeral).
The retailer is responsible for liaising with the postal service if something goes wrong.
Hopefully your package can be found, or you can reach an agreement for a refund or replacement with the retailer. But if neither is the case you can take the issue further.
- If your issue is with the retailer or a courier other than Star Track couriers, contact your state consumer protection agency.
- If your issue is with Australia Post or Star Track couriers, contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
CHOICE tip: If you've hit a wall with getting a resolution from the retailer and you don't have faith you'll receive the item, consider claiming a chargeback through your bank if you paid for the item on your credit card.
Australia Post parcel scams
If you're eagerly awaiting a delayed delivery, you may be more vulnerable to some of the scam texts targeting people in your position.
Beware texts that appear to be from Australia Post or a well-known courier service that tell you that there's been an issue with your delivery, and then direct you to click on a link that may ask for personal details or a payment.
Sometimes these texts may even carry the sender ID of the organisation they claim to be representing, making them appear legitimate.
If you're unsure, contact Australia Post through its official channels to ask if the communication is genuine.
Buying from fake retail websites
Another potential reason why your package hasn't arrived is because you've inadvertently bought from a fake website or scam retailer who had no intention of sending you the goods.
According to the ACCC, there were at least 2760 reports of fake online stores in 2023, resulting in losses of more than half a million dollars. In total, online shopping scams cost Australians over $6.2 million, between 1 January and 30 September 2023.Red flags to look out for include websites with unusual URLs, typos and grammatical errors in the wording on the website or in the confirmation email (or a lack of a confirmation email), and huge discounts that may be too good to be true.
Follow our advice on how to spot and report a scam website including what you should do if you think you've been scammed. The first step is to immediately contact your financial institution to see if the payment has been taken out or if it can be stopped.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.