Victory Against Unfair Courier Practices: Our Case Over Non-Delivered Meat Orders

by Robert Gooch May 24 2024

A courier company which failed to deliver meat orders to Wild Meat customers in December 2022 has now dropped its court case against our company for its refusal to pay for these non-deliveries. This followed advice to the courier company’s lawyers from the judge presiding over the case.
Wild Meat Company delivery

In the run up to Christmas 2022, one of the courier companies we use to deliver our meat boxes failed to deliver about 50 of our parcels. Not only did they fail to deliver, they also didn’t even attempt to deliver - instead they disposed of our products.

It is not commonly understood that most courier companies’ contracts for perishable goods allow them to behave in this way, and with no recourse from their customers. They justify this behaviour on the grounds that perishable food items create a health and safety risk, which means that they can destroy the goods and do not have to provide any refunds for delivery failures. When situations like this arise, it goes without saying that we refund all our customers in full but what you might not know is that the couriers do not then refund us as a matter of course. In practice, however, there is usually a negotiation which allows some compensation or credit to be returned to the food company concerned.

In this case though, the courier company would only credit 5% of the value of the lost meat.  We refused to accept this credit in settlement and withheld payments to the courier to the value of the remaining 95% of the lost meat, worth in total approximately £3,000.

The courier then took our company to court to recover the £3,000 plus costs.  The case was held in the Bristol County court on 29 April 2024. During the hearing, the judge interrogated the courier’s lawyers in depth about the company’s terms and conditions, which allow the courier to not attempt delivery but still get paid. The judge asked them “Am I right in understanding that you have been paid to provide a delivery service, but your terms and conditions permit you to not execute this service if you should so wish?”.

When the courier’s representatives agreed, the judge told them that his initial view was that their terms and conditions were not compliant with UK consumer laws and that he would be ruling to that effect, unless both parties came to an agreement before he made his judgement. Both parties were invited to withdraw from the court room and given 15 minutes to reach an agreement before the judge made his ruling. The courier’s lawyers immediately asked to drop the claim and write off our debt.

Whilst it was pleasing to win the argument against the courier and see the case and debt dropped, I also regret not allowing the judge to make his ruling, as this could have forced couriers to change their unfair terms and conditions and provide a better service to their customers and consumers. However, as a small company, we could not afford to take the risk of an uncertain judgement and took the immediate offer of the dropped case.