Seven in 10 people with disabilities ‘have had delivery problems in past year’

Some said their parcel was left in a place that potentially could have been dangerous for them to attempt to retrieve.

15 February 2022

Seven in 10 (72%) people with disabilities have faced delivery problems in the past year, a survey has found.

Just over half (53%) of those with a delivery issue 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%).

The survey was carried out by Which? and charity the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers.

More than one in 10 (12%) who had 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%) who had problems with a delivery said they had 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.

One customer told researchers: “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? said it had looked at the checkout journeys for some major online retailers and found there was no standard approach.

Some retailers offer text boxes with sparse character limits, while others only allow customers to input instructions for certain items, Which? found.

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 have access to safe and reliable delivery services.

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.”

Gordon McCullough, chief executive at the Research Institute for 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.”

Ofcom said: “It’s unacceptable that disabled customers are far more likely to experience significant problems with parcel deliveries.

“We’ve set out plans to strengthen protections for disabled customers to ensure they’re treated fairly by delivery firms.

“If we don’t see significant improvements in customer service, we’ll consider enforcement action or further regulation.”

Amazon told researchers: “Amazon is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and that includes when delivering to customers. Customers can input specific delivery preferences to their Amazon customer account, including designating a preferred safe space, requesting delivery to a neighbour, or choosing delivery to a collection point such as a Post Office branch or an Amazon Locker.

“Where a customer provides us with a specific delivery preference we convey those instructions to our third party delivery providers. In the event of any concern, including accessibility, our customer service team will work closely with the customer to understand their particular needs and ensure a practical solution is implemented.”

Royal Mail told researchers its delivery staff generally know their customers’ needs well and benefit from significant local knowledge. It also monitors customer feedback to identify those needing extra support.

DHL said it has worked to improve the accessibility of its delivery service for customers with disabilities and DPD said it has a range of options that can be used by disabled consumers.

Hermes told researchers many retailers allow customers to add delivery instructions at the point of purchase and this is carried through to its IT system and can be printed on the delivery label.

UPS said recipients have the option to sign up for its “my choice” service, which allows them to provide advanced delivery instructions.

Tom Marsland, policy manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Businesses must make sure their disabled customers can share any access needs they have, and that this information is passed on to the delivery company.

“Delivery companies must make sure drivers take note of these instructions and have time to follow them.”

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