Can I keep goods delivered to me by mistake?

Holly Thomas / 01 May 2015

If you receive goods that you didn’t order, can you keep them? We explain the rules about unsolicited goods and items delivered to you by mistake.



Many households all over Britain have received goods they didn’t order in the post. The conundrum presents itself – what do you do? Can you keep them?

There are some specific rules that are worth following so you don’t end up in hot water.

Ordering goods on eBay? Read our scam guide.

What are unsolicited goods?

Items that firms send to you, but you didn't actually order are called "unsolicited goods". You're well within your rights to keep them.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 state that you have a right to keep goods delivered to you that you didn’t ask for.

You have no obligation to send them back to the company or to pay for them. If you receive a demand for payment for unsolicited goods or services, you can ignore it – it’s a criminal offence.

If you would prefer to make some effort to give back the goods, you could write to the company and offer to return them.

Citizens Advice suggests writing a letter which includes specific wording to make reference to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Your letter should be dated, and should first specify what you received, and when.

So for example, On 23/05/2015 I received from you: A large ceramic plant pot 24" diameter.

Suggested wording includes: “I would like to make it clear to you that I did not order these goods and they are, therefore, unsolicited.

“I will make the goods available for you to collect at your expense in the next 14 days, but after this time I will treat the goods as my own.

“Please contact me to arrange collection.”

What if it the delivery was sent by mistake?

It’s a different story altogether if items are sent to you by mistake. That is, if the order wasn't meant for you, if it was sent to you twice, or if there's extra stuff on top of what you ordered.

In all these scenarios, they are not classed as unsolicited goods, they still belong to the trader and you should try to give them back. 

Firms can take you to court to recover their goods, if you were to resist.

You will need to contact whoever sent the goods and ask them to collect them. This shouldn't cost you anything or inconvenience you in any way. You should also give the company a reasonable deadline to collect the items, of say, 14 days.

Make sure you keep written evidence of your contact with the supplier.

Bought fake goods? Find out what you can do. 

What if I have been sent something different to the item I ordered?

Substitute goods are not unsolicited goods. For example, where you're sent something else because what you ordered is out of stock or no longer available. You do not have to accept a substitute and the trader can only send you a substitute if you agree to it. 

If you do not want the substitute when it arrives, you can get a refund but you must also be prepared to return the goods.

If you are in doubt, you can ask  your local Citizens Advice.

Receiving unsolicited goods is sometimes an indication that your identity has been stolen by fraudsters that were hoping to intercept the package before you received it. Checking your bank statements and credit report can help you to identify identity fraud. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.