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.

Find the sender’s details and  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. A suitable deadline is between one and two weeks.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to the items that you ordered. Follow the advice in this post and Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

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. You could contact them in case a mistake has been made and to completely cover yourself as  truly unsolicited goods sent within the UK are very rare these days.

Unsolicited goods...

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.

Top 20 tips for complaining effectively.

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For masses of information, tips, guidance, laws and regulations and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

42 replies on “All you need to know about unsolicited goods”

Dear Helen, I just read your article online about unsolicited goods etc.
Oils you please advise me in this scenario?
I bought a phone from a well known online manufacturer at the end of 2019.
Because I was not available for the delivery the phone was returned and I was told that the order would be cancelled and refunded. I stressed that I did not want to cancel the order or a refund; I wanted the phone.
They duly sent a replacement but are now (three months later) claiming that I was refunded and need to pay!
I don’t have my records for this period yet but – assuming that they did refund me – what must I do?

A package delivered for my address with a different business name has been sitting with me for two years, that business has a debt collection company on the case and court letters but can they really proceed with all this seeing as A. I still have the package unopened B. They made the mess up. I did sign for the package however. Should I be paying these debt fees for something that isn’t my fault or should I ignore it?

Sorry Jason, just seen that my reply to this didn’t go through for some reason.

You are not responsible for the debts because the package is not in your name. I guess you did write to the company as per above. If you didn’t I’d suggest you do quickly and ask them to collect the item etc as per advice above.

Dear Helen, I am browsing the internet for help and your “unsolicited goods” page is the closest match I could find. Thank you very much!
Maybe there is a chance that you could enlighten me a bit more: More than six months ago I spent €2000 on a musical instrument from a UK company, which was delivered to Germany. It turned out to be faulty, so I got a replacement and was told to wait for a return shipping label for the first one, but I never got it despite asking for it several times – just silence from the company. Now I have two bulky instruments sitting in my small apartment and I don’t know what to do with the unwanted one.
According to UK law how long do I need to wait until I can get rid of it? (sell it, dump it, whatever) I guess it’s not really unsolicited goods, is it?
Best regards, Peter

See link to Consumer Rights Act. You simply write to the company requesting the label by a certain date and that if you don’t receive it by then you will dispose of it.

Hi Helen

I’ve found myself in this situation, I received an item from a company that I have never heard of or used, the package was addressed to me using my full name, there was no note or receipt in the box. I’ve tried to contact the company on the return address but haven’t had a response yet. No money’s been taken from my bank or any other service I use so I definitely didn’t order them. Am I able to keep the item in this situation or should I return it?

Hello. I received an item I didn’t order but I have absolutely no idea where it came from, all that is written on the package is next day delivery with no reference to the seller who posted it. Would you deem this to be true unsolicited goods? Please give me an actual response instead of referring me back to the post as I have read and understood it but I am unsure if it applies to my situation.

Why should I give you an “actual response” when you are so rude? Despite your rudeness I have given you an actual response. This one. You come to a site that is not funded that provides you with free advice. You read an article that does answer your question and then you rudely ask for more free help. Please note any response from you will go straight to spam and go unread.

I purchased a mobile phone from samsung directly with a contract sim they said the order was complete passed credit check and was dispatched I also paid £85 in was then contacted by them a few days later to they order failed credit check and was cancelled and refunded the £85 the phone was then delivered and my partner unaware of the situation had opened it I have made contact with samsung to explain although no specific response yet as they cant understand how it has happened and keep passing to a different dept. any advice on this would be grateful

My wife received a tiny package of seeds completely unsolicited from a Malaysian ‘locked box address’. Her address and mobile phone number were on the front of the package- a trawl of the internet would seem to show this is part of some sort of scam whereby low value items are sent as a way of creating fake transactions to increase someone’s feedback scores on shopping sites like amazon. Someone else was sent a single marble and another person an empty ink cartridge- the worry is someone is using her identity
What would you do?

Ignore it. You could inform Amazon see what they say but I’d advise using the words “please” and “thank you” when asking them for feedback.

Hi Helen, A small problem I purchased some carbon wheels from Edco-Wheels from Germany 4 weeks ago(28th April 2020). Order was processed on 29th April through DHL Packet(lower end delivery service) and the tracking got stuck on 7th May 2020 with no update,and I was aware of some delays due to covid-19
I sent a email to DHL Monday 18th May asking for a investigation and update . With no response on Thursday 21st May ,I contacted Edco Wheels and explained the situation and copy of my email I sent to DHL. They contacted DHL on the same day and they came back to them and confirmed as a missing lost item( I am assuming they have been reimbursed by DHL for the costs of the valued item.)
Edco straight away sent me another order this time with DHL EXPRESS. It will arrive to me Tuesday 26th May.

I now have discovered today 23rd May 2020 that the 1st tracking order has now arrived at the delivery base which is delivered by the national postal service. So it was too late to cancel the 2nd order as it also has arrived at the delivery base this will delivered by DHL EXPRESS.
So now I will get 2 sets of wheels at £850 each! So what do I do in following, Edco insist me on paying for the return postage cost if I end with 2 packages, I said no as it’s not my problem and not my fault!
1. Do I keep both packages and say nothing.
2. Do I notify the company and have them returned at there expense.
3. What happens if they continue to ask for postage costs and I refuse to do so.

I am assuming they have been covered by DHL or by there insurance company for there lost costs of the 1st Order.
I would grateful for your advice on this as soon as possible as its getting rather complicated to say the least.
Regards Jon

Hi Helen thanks for your kind response ,it’s actually been delivered to me in Portugal(ex UK citizen) ,so assume it will come under E.U. law and German Law. so it is abit of a minefield for sure. The way I see it is DHL are fault here, so yes it not classed as unsolicited goods. But I should not be paying for the return costs.

See links I provided as I say, EU law, UK law doesn’t come into it.

I wonder if you can help me – the mistake is mine. I ordered £50 worth of items to be delivered but I hadn’t updated my address so the package from Superdrug was sent to my old property. I am in the process of asking an old neighbour to find out whether the new owners have received the package but if they say no, what do I do? Thank you in advance for any advice…

Your mistake. You can only inform Superdrug and see what they say. If the neighbours say they haven’t received it you can say that but they well have proof that it was delivered and then your argument is with your old neighbours not Superdrug

Hello Helen!

I placed an order with a company I usually order from. They got an order mix up and I received the wrong items. I contacted them by email saying I received the wrong items and asked them how to proceed to return the items I received. The company apologised for the mistake and sent me the correct items a few days later, but didn’t reply to my question regarding the return. It’s now been 1.5 month, am I right to assume I can keep the items that were sent to me by mistake?

Thank you very much for your time!

This is really interesting – what is your opinion on my current situation:

I ordered two products (a large canister of bitumen paint and a large canister of roofing adhesive) from “Company A” several weeks ago. The adhesive arrived damaged and leaking, so Company A sent me a replacement canister and told me to dispose of the leaky one.

About ten days ago, another canister of bitumen paint arrived from “Company B”. Worried I had someone else’s order I contacted them and said a mistake has been made – they then told me they were sending it because of my damaged order from Company A… I explained that the previous issue had been sorted, and it was only half of the order that was damaged (the adhesive, not the paint) and what should I do with the new canister.

I was told that I had to keep it and they, in turn, would have their carriers collect it. Ten days later, and several emails, they are now telling me their carriers can’t collect it for some reason and that their staff are furloughed… I asked at the end of last week that they hurry up and collect it – it’s a small barrel on a pallet, and is in the way. Only to be told that I could arrange a courier for them and then they will pay me back!

It’s insane, as it’s going to cost more than it’s worth to return it. I’m beginning to wish I never pointed out their mistake. At what point can I just dispose of it?

Thank you. Do I fall into the section called “I have received an item that I did not order from a company I have used before”? And if so, please could you give me a steer on what constitutes a reasonable deadline to set given the timescales in my case?

I would literally be copying and pasting what is in the post! Please follow advice in post suggested deadline two weeks.

Hi Helen. We ordered a bed from a reputable furniture company. They are a nightmare to get in touch with but cut a long story short they have delivered our bed AND another bed ! We have messaged them on twitter several times to let them know but they haven’t come back to us and the bed is getting in the way. It’s been three weeks now and still no response so can we dispose of the bed ? Thanks

This is not unsolicited goods. Please follow advice in post and in the links above re Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Tips for everything you need to do.

Dear Helen,

Thank you for this helpful blog. I have ordered a piece of furniture. As it didnt arrive in several weeks and the company was unresponsive, I asked my bank for a refund and got it.

However, the piece of furniture came two months later. Additionally, I did not sign for the package, it was just left in the doorway, so I didnt have the chance to send it back directly.

I have tried to contact them for weeks, but no reply. Could you please tell me what is the reasonable deadline to ask them to pick it up (I am moving very soon) and what on earth to do, if they do not reply?

Thank you and best wishes

Not unsolicited goods. Please see the post above and links within and follow the advice.

Some help please,

I hired a lens from Canon and when they were due to pick it up they never showed. I contacted them and they said the driver forgot but would be back the following – again no one showed up so I called back and told them I was away working until the following week, they said to keep the item packaged up and they would send someone the following week. Yet again no show, Three days I have wasted as collection can be anytime between 7:00-18:00. The lens is worth a lot of money £2k and I paid a deposit £400. What is my rights here:

1 Can I keep the lens and get my deposit back
2 Can I keep the lens and forget my deposit
3 Can I start charging for my time until they collect the lens (if so how much)
4 Do I need to keep chasing Canon
5 Other????

Please HELP!

All the answers to your queries are in the post and the links within, follow the advice and no you can’t charge for your wasted time.

Hello Helen! I won an item from a raffle in which they sent the item to my address but on top of that they also sent another item to my address both are in my name, neither have been signed for.

Would I have to return the one I ‘didn’t win’ ? or is this considered unsolicited goods?


Of course it isn’t unsolicited goods! Of course it is a mistake! Contact the sender.

I purchased 5 items from a company that keeps changing names. Each time they sent me nothing I ordered just tat things. I reported to PayPal as a fraud company and they are looking into it! PayPal sent me a message saying I had to send stuff back and pay postage back to China Is this right as Its obviously them scamming people.

Hi, I wonder if you can help me, I recently purchased a Tv from Argos, all seemed fine, got home and it was completely the wrong tv in the box, I assume that it had been returned by another customer, so they put their old broken tv in the box, kept the new one and took it back and now I’ve ended up with completely the wrong tv and it’s faulty, I tried taking it back in store and they just say the serial numbers don’t match so it’s not our responsibility, it’s not the item we sold you. No. It’s not the item I thought I was buying but it’s definitely the one I got. Furious at them and lost about £600 but do I actually have a leg to stand on?

That’s difficult because of course it’s really difficult to prove! You could try contacting the manufacturer of the old tv if it is a SMART tv that has sent a signal but GDPRs may stop them giving you much detail. Follow the tips for complaining and threaten legal action through the Small Claims Court. Good luck, horrible position to be in.

Very informative post, thank you. I have just received in the post 2 “official “We’ll Meet Again” Vera Lynn coins from a company called The London Mint Office. No idea how they have my address and I certainly haven’t ordered them. The correspondence states that payment is due on receipt of invoice, and the invoice states the coins are £2.50 each. Seems to fall under unsolicited goods to me, however they also state I can phone them for a returns label, but I don’t see why I should go to the effort of ringing them, packaging it back up, going to the post office for proof of postage (which they ask for), Do the rules still apply (that I can keep or dispose) given that they have provided the means to return them (albeit at my personal effort)? Many thanks

I have just received a tablet that I didn’t order.

It was sent from a fulfilment e-commerce type company. I googled it and one of its clients is a manufacturer that I have ordered from a year or so ago that sent it themselves when I ordered from them. Since the package has come from a fulfilment company not the manufacturer that I have ordered from before does it fall under unsolicited goods?

Being a manufacturer is irrelevant. Clearly a mistake certainly not unsolicited goods. Please follow the advice above for return. If you’re after them saying you can keep it I’d think it highly unlikely that they will say you can as the cost of return to them would be far less than the loss of a tablet. You should try using the words “Please” and “Thank you” when contacting them though as manners go a long way. You’re welcome.

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