Martyn James: Rights and wrongs of supermarket deliveries

Problems with supermarket delivery slots exacerbated by the lockdown have led to a big jump in complaints. So, what are your rights?

Remember to keep your distance while queueing. Picture: David Rogers/Getty

While you do have rights in some areas – like late or failed deliveries – we understand that the big problems, like getting hold of someone on the phone or finding a delivery slot, makes the whole process even more difficult.

Here’s an overview of a few common complaints and what you can do to get help – and what’s the right thing to do too.

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I can’t get a delivery slot

The supermarkets are saying that you shouldn’t try to book a slot unless you are vulnerable or older. The government agrees. Realistically, if you’re well and not in a high-risk group, you should be masking up and going to the supermarket, respecting social distancing both inside and outside the store.

What if I’m “extremely vulnerable” or older?

Around 1.5 million people are on a government list as “extremely vulnerable” and are shielding for 12 weeks. They will have received a letter or email from the government confirming this. If you think you should be on the list then register here:

The government has said that supermarkets should prioritise slots for the people on it. However, in practice, it would seem this is proving to be rather difficult.

If you are in this category, don’t give up, keep contacting the supermarket. Aim local if you can and ask a representative to speak to a manager in person if you’re struggling. Why not photo the government letter to confirm your situation and ask if you can book a regular delivery slot?

What if I’m not on the list but still “at risk”?

Most supermarkets are running special morning slots for older people and key workers, usually from 9-10am. We’re hearing from people around the UK who are telling us that local shops and off licences have virtually no queues and a range of essential products in stock.

My delivery slot has been cancelled for no reason

We’ve seen a big influx of complaints around people who have deliveries booked only for them to be cancelled on the day of delivery.

After researching this in-depth, the problem seems to be supermarkets not putting payments for processing until the delivery day and banks rejecting payments for unknown reasons.

We can’t say definitively, but it would seem that some banks are rejecting payments as part of their automated anti-fraud checks. There’s no way to avoid this happening definitively, but you could contact your bank and ask them to put a note on your account that a payment is due. This might not stop an automated check, but it could mean the payment could be authorised quicker when you call.

Consumer rights

If orders are wrong, damaged or not delivered, you have the right to a refund. You should also get the delivery within 30 days unless you’ve agreed otherwise. Note that a business telling you that the delivery will be much later than this (probably) counts as “agreeing otherwise” given the current pandemic.


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