Major retailers and delivery firms are failing disabled customers Which? finds

Image shows brown package with the word Fragile taped onto it
14 Feb 2022

Seven in ten (72%) disabled consumers faced one or more delivery problems in the past year, a joint survey with Which? and the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers has revealed.

The survey of 704 disabled consumers found that half of those with a delivery issue (53%)  said the courier didn’t wait long enough for them to answer the door. A quarter (25%) said parcels were left in an accessible way and the same proportion said that the courier did not provide the help they needed with their disability (24%).

Which? also looked at ten of the biggest online retailers’ checkout pages after people complained it was difficult to leave delivery instructions when placing orders. The research found that while some retailers provided textboxes for delivery instructions, others only allowed this function for some products and with sparse character limits. And other retailers didn’t provide this function on its checkout pages at all.

Here, we look at the delivery issues faced by disabled consumers and call on retailers to make it easier for shoppers to add delivery instructions.

'Couriers never wait for me to get to the door’

Half of those with a delivery issue said the courier didn’t wait long enough for them to answer the door.

‘Couriers never wait for me to get there,’ one participant said. ‘Twice couriers have left parcels outside where I can’t access them at all and where they could be stolen. This makes me feel angry because a reasonable request hasn’t been followed.’

One in four participants told us their parcel was left in an inaccessible space (25%), and the same proportion said the courier didn’t provide the help they needed (24%). And one in ten (12%) said their parcel was left in a dangerous way.

Caroline from London told us, delivery drivers, regularly walk away before she can get to the door: ‘As a wheelchair user, I can’t reach the ground to pick the parcels up. If I manage to get the driver before they’ve driven off, they come back begrudgingly and make you very aware of this.’ She told us about a recent experience with a failed Amazon delivery.

‘I received an email from Amazon telling me my parcel had been delivered,’ Caroline explained. ‘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.’

Caroline has found complaining is often not worth the effort: ‘I have complained in the past but little to nothing is ever done. I feel complaining is just a waste of my time.’ And she’s found delivery drivers rarely follow instructions when she is able to leave them. ‘Being able to leave 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 mose courier drivers just ignored the instructions.’

Asos, Currys, M&S and Next don’t allow shoppers to leave delivery instructions

Half (55%) of participants who had problems with a delivery said they informed the retailer or the courier of their needs prior to the delivery. But it wasn’t always an easy process - two in five (41%) of those who informed the delivery firm or retailer of their needs said it was difficult to do so.

Some participants found character limits in textboxes made it challenging to explain their needs. ‘I find the biggest issue is that if you can leave details, you can usually only use about 20 -30 letters and this is not enough. Some delivery staff just don’t care,’ a shopper told us.

Instructions not always followed

But even when participants did manage to leave instructions, the vast majority found they weren’t taken into account by the delivery firm. Eight in ten (77%) who notified the delivery company or retailer about their needs found their instructions were not well followed.

One participant told us:

‘On the notes space, I added information about my disabilities and that I need the parcel brought inside. This was met with eye-rolling and a sigh. I felt a nuisance and under-valued.’

Others find that couriers ignore the disability badges on their front doors: ‘Nine times out of ten parcels are left on my steps which means I have to bend over to reach them and this is difficult with my disability. I even have the wheelchair logo on a badge on my door and no one acknowledges it.’

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.

An Ofcom spokesperson told us:

‘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.’

Complaints not handled effectively

Seven in ten (69%) of those who complained to the delivery company found it difficult to do so, compared with three in ten (28%) of those who complained to the retailer.Four in ten (39%) of those that filed a complaint with the retailer said they were dissatisfied with the retailer’s approach to dealing with their issue, while three in ten (31%) of those who complained to the courier said they weren’t satisfied with how it was handled. But half of the participants who experienced an issue didn’t make a complaint at all - with one in four saying they didn’t think there was any point or that anything would be done about it.

One participant described how they struggled to get in touch with a delivery firm after they failed to deliver their next-day delivery:

‘I couldn’t find a telephone number for the delivery company. I struggle using the phone and use text relay and sometimes the calls are not accepted and the phone is put down.’

By the time the customer got through to the courier, they were told the delivery driver was out of their area and would try to deliver on a different day. ‘It makes me feel frustrated, angry and discriminated against, as it is so much harder for me to contact the delivery companies,’ they told us.

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

‘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.’


Nom Mbambo (a member of the RiDC consumer panel) and Gordon McCullough appeared on GB News (16/2/2022) to discuss this research and the impact on disabled consumers. 

  • Which? surveyed 704 members of the panel of the Research Institute of Disabled Consumers in November 2021 about their experience receiving deliveries.

The original version of this article can be found on the Which? website here