Tea lights instead of tablets – increased number of parcels with wrong or no contents after online purchases

In recent months, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Germany has received an increasing number of complaints from consumers about wrong deliveries from all over Europe.

Instead of expensive electronic goods, the parcels contain inferior products or none at all. The orders were placed with well-known online mail order companies operating throughout the EU.

The ECC gives tips on what consumers should do.

Predominantly high-value electronic goods affected - some examples

For example, a consumer from North Rhine-Westphalia ordered a smartphone for €1,052 from a French internet shop. All he found in the parcel was a bottle of perfume.

A woman from Hamburg was expecting a laptop from the Netherlands (€1,068) but instead received a hot plate.

A consumer in Hesse had to make do with tea lights instead of a tablet (€177).

There have also been reports of parcels arriving completely empty.

Tips for consumers

  • Weigh and photograph the package before opening it. The same applies to returns.
  • Open the package with witnesses. Film the unpacking. Do the same when preparing the parcel for return.
  • If the parcel contains the wrong goods, take a photograph of the items in the parcel. Make sure the sender's name and address are visible.
  • If not all items arrive (e.g. an item of clothing you ordered is missing) Withdraw the missing items.
  • If the parcel is visibly damaged on delivery, refuse to accept it and complain directly to the parcel service and the mail order company.
  • Send the goods back as an insured parcel. This will allow you to track the goods.
  • Weigh the package before you return it. Have the weight recorded on the delivery slip. Keep the receipt - even if the seller gives you a return label.
  • Only communicate with the seller in writing (not by phone) so you have a record. Allow two weeks for a reply and refund.

Sellers assume transport risk

Sellers bear the transport risk until delivery to the customer. The parcel is considered to have been delivered when the consumer actually takes possession of it.

Handing it over to a neighbour, a post office or leaving it on the doorstep is not considered delivery unless the customer has expressly agreed to it.

The online-shop is responsible for providing proof of delivery.

If the goods are lost or damaged in transit through no fault of the seller or the buyer, the consumer is entitled to a new delivery or a refund of the purchase price. The consumer does not have to wait for the seller to clarify the whereabouts of the package with the shipping company.

Online retailers have a duty to deliver the right goods

However, the seller not only bears the risk of correct delivery to the customer, but must also deliver the goods ordered.

If the wrong goods are delivered, this constitutes a material defect. The customer can still require the seller to deliver the goods actually ordered.

The online shop will have to pay the shipping costs again.

Online shops also responsible for empty parcels

If the customer receives a completely empty parcel, it was either sent as such by the sender or the contents were stolen or fell out of the parcel on the way.

Again, the responsibility is on the online shop to prove that the parcel was sent with the correct contents. If it fails to do so, it must deliver again or the customer can cancel the contract and ask for a refund.

The online shop cannot simply pass on the responsibility to the shipping company.

Returns and refunds often test customers' patience

People who complain about incorrectly delivered goods and return them, or who complain about an empty parcel, often receive neither a replacement delivery nor a refund.

This is because the online shop continues to claim that it has sent the correct goods or demands that the goods originally ordered be returned.

Get free help now

Do you have a question about your consumer rights or want to complain about a supplier from another EU country, Iceland, Norway or the UK? Then contact us now.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.