All you need to know about unsolicited goods

Have you received unsolicited goods?

Can you keep the goods you believe are unsolicited?

One of the most frequent things I get asked about is unsolicited goods. Many people believe that if they receive something sent by mistake they can keep it. Here are five situations in which people commonly think they can keep the goods when they legally can’t.

I have received an item that I did not order from a company I have used before. Can I keep it?

This is highly likely to be a mistake as your details will be on the company’s computer system and have been muddled with somebody else’s as a result of an administrative error.

You should contact the company and tell them that you have received the item and that you expect them, or their courier, to come and collect it. Give them a deadline for when they should do this and if you do not hear from them by this date you will dispose of the item.

I ordered one item and a different item came. Can I keep the item and get my money back for the item I ordered?

No. This is clearly an administrative error. You should contact the company, tell them what has happened and request return procedure details. Ensure that you are not paying for the return of the item. Although you are able to return an item within 14 days for a change of mind this is not a change of mind. This is the company’s error and they must pay for the return postage. You also need to make sure you have an evidence trail of the paperwork to show that you informed them that the wrong item was sent and returned so that you get refunded correctly.

The item was sent to my address but not in my name. Can I keep it?

You cannot keep the item. Look for a company address and contact the company regarding return.

I ordered an item from Company A. Company B supplies A and both sent me the item. Can I keep both?

This is a mistake. You will need to contact the company with which you do not have the contract (the company you did not pay) and arrange collection/return.

I received an order I cancelled. Can I keep it?

This is a mistake. As above, you need to arrange for a return by a deadline you give.

True unsolicited goods

Most people are familiar with the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971. However, unsolicited goods are also covered in the newer regulations The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013) which say you have a right to keep goods delivered to you that you didn’t request. Specifically, from the explanatory note that accompanies the legislation:

“Part 4 of the Regulations contains provisions concerning protection from unsolicited sales and additional charges which have not been expressly agreed in advance. Regulation 39 introduces a new provision into the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which provides that a consumer is not required to pay for the unsolicited supply of products. Regulation 40 provides that a consumer is not required to make payments in addition to those agreed for the trader’s main obligation, unless the consumer gave express consent before conclusion of the contract”.

Explanatory note to the legislation.

You are under no legal obligation to contact the trader and can keep the goods. However, truly unsolicited goods sent within the UK are very rare these days.

woman holding box unsolicited goods your rightsFurther help

If you have issues such as those above, they will probably fall into a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 which means you can still get redress.

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Thomas Cook rescued from debt doom

Holiday giant out of danger zone

What’s happened to Thomas Cook?

News broke today of Thomas Cook and their financial troubles. It is a massive group with £9bn in annual sales, 19 million customers a year and 22,000 staff operating in 16 countries.

However, today the BBC reported Thomas Cook in £750m rescue deal talks. It is in talks with Fosun the largest shareholder in the company. Although not yet finalised it looks likely that the Chinese investor will buy the tour business.

Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said the proposal was “not the outcome any of us wanted” but was “pragmatic”.

Recent financial history

Thomas Cook undertook a strategic review in February 2019 and in March, it announced plans to close 21 of its high-street holiday stores, costing more than 300 jobs, and in May, it revealed a £1.5bn half-year loss.
In December last year shares dropped 60% in value over a period of just 8 days. This was due to concerns over the company’s borrowings (it issued a second profit warning in two months). The travel company’s bonds also dropped in value and the cost of insuring its debt against defaulting on payments reached a record high.

In June this year shares rose 24% when it said it was in talks with Fosum to sell its tour operator business. Today shares opened up with a drop of 40% on news of the proposal.

aeroplane in the sky

So what happened to Thomas Cook?

1) In 2010 Thomas Cook linked up with the Co-operative Travel chain. This provided Thomas Cook with about 1,400 shops but at a time when consumers were beginning to book more and more on line.

2) It has had to face a number of reputation issues. These have included the death of two children. Mother of children killed on holiday says Thomas Cook ‘abhorrent’ after an inquest jury reached a verdict of unlawful killing and ruled that Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care. There were deaths at a hotel in Egypt. Egypt hotel deaths: authorities blame E coli, Thomas Cook ‘notes’ announcement In all the cases Thomas Cook were criticised for their handling of the issues both during and after the events.

3) Brexit. Clearly, as with any other industry, Brexit has affected business. In the holiday industry uncertainty has led to a lack of confidence in booking holidays.

4) Good weather last year with a long heatwave was good news for tourism in the UK but not for travel companies as people chose to holiday at home rather than going abroad.

5) Although people like the security and convenience of a package holiday, an increasing number of people are booking accommodation and flights separately. And since July 2018 protections for these consumers improved with the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018

6) The charges for seating and keeping families together are high and add to the cost of holidays. Although not alone in making these charges, Thomas Cook is relatively high. In August 2017 I undertook a comparison of holiday companies and analysis of these costs which showed that Thomas Cook were the highest. These prices have now risen even more. Consumers don’t like feeling conned and are becoming aware of these additional costs and factoring them in before booking. Greed in the wrong places doesn’t work.

7) Uncertainty about the group leaves consumers unnerved. Whilst holiday makers holidays are protected and there should be no problem, news around financial problems unsettles consumers and they will naturally be cautious of booking with Thomas Cook.

8) When I asked on social media what people thought the reasons for Thomas Cook’s troubles were, they answered with the market not being there as point 5 above. But that affects all holiday companies and people said that pre-flight service was poor. With so much competition around companies whatever the sector, the need to improve customer service is paramount. It is becoming more and more important to stand out and one way is by providing the best customer service. We saw it playing a part in Debenhams decline.

Lessons to learn from Thomas Cook difficulties

1) Reputational damage doesn’t go away. People usually have short memories but when you have issues as every company does, how you handle it matters immensely. When KFC had a chicken shortage it dealt with poor publicity and turned it round. KFC chicken shortage and Twitter getting it right. Whilst the deaths were far more serious, the handling of the cases such as not apologising, not looking after the family and just not doing the right thing and certainly not seen to be doing the right thing left its mark. Companies need to do the right thing and be seen to be doing the right thing or pay the price.

2) Keep ahead of the game. Being innovative and creative is essential to survive and thrive in this current climate.

3) Charging consumers more, with added costs not advertised in the original package such as the seat allocation, (unless you want to risk the random allocation) is a growing annoying trend that really frustrates consumers. Honesty and transparency will win more loyalty and return customers than the get rich quick from adding costs here and there. It doesn’t work.

4) Customer service. With the ongoing increase of online shopping there is only one thing left to make you stand out from the crowd whether in store on online after price: Customer service.

5) Poor financial performance has a knock-on effect and shakes consumer confidence in a company and its brands. Who is going to risk their hard-earned annual holiday with a company that looks like it might go under? That’s the main reason why Fosun’s bail out is such good news for Thomas Cook customers and prospective customers

Ensuring that consumers can always contact you quickly and efficiently in the way they want to contact you, not the way you want to contact them. Offering help where appropriate and keeping customers informed are all key customer service issues for consumers.

The analysts will be keeping a close eye on Thomas Cook. From what consumers tell me they have a lot more to work to do than just getting a financial injection. It won’t be just analysts watching Thomas Cook, consumers will be too.

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