Couples left without food by Tesco Online

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When it's bitterly cold outside and there's ice covering the pavements, ordering your shopping on the internet can seem like the easy option.

All the big supermarkets now offer home delivery – so it's tempting to stay wrapped up warm inside, rather than venturing out in sub-zero temperatures.

But after his experience ordering from Tesco Online, Jeremy Sheppard was left wishing he had just jumped in his car and done it himself.

Expecting his order to be delivered on Wednesday December 1 – the day before heavy snow started falling – Mr Sheppard waited up until 11.30pm for his shopping to arrive, before heading off to bed.

The next day he contacted Tesco to find out when they would be able to drop off his goods, but was told the delivery had been cancelled because of bad weather.

Resigning himself to a trip to his local convenience store to pick up essentials, Mr Sheppard, of William Price Gardens, Fareham, was surprised to see that Tesco had still debited 140 from his account.

He said: 'The money was taken straight away when I placed the order, but it annoyed me that it hadn't been returned with anything like the same speed.

'And the communication from Tesco was very poor, it wasn't until the following Saturday that I was given any notification of what was going on.'

So three days after his order was supposed to arrive, Mr Sheppard was sent a generic e-mail by Tesco which told him to wait 14 days after not receiving a refund before getting in touch.

The e-mail said: 'The nature of our banking system means that under normal circumstances it may take up to five working days for a refund to reach your account. However, due to the recent bad weather this may take slightly longer than usual.'

And nine days later, when Mr Sheppard contacted Streetwise, he had still not received a refund or any further communication.

He said: 'From the look of the e-mail they must have had quite a few cases like this.

'I'm lucky to be in a position where I have the means to buy another big load of shopping at short notice, but my worry is what if this happened to someone who wasn't?

'There must be families out there who cannot afford to wait for a refund and their children could go hungry in the meantime.'

After Streetwise contacted Tesco, Mr Sheppard was given a refund within 48 hours and offered compensation as a gesture of goodwill.

But he refused to accept their offer, instead requesting that they simply make sure no-one else had to endure the same problems as him.

Tesco press officer James Wiggam said: 'We have said sorry to Mr Sheppard for the delay and are processing his refund. This case is very unusual.

A very small number of deliveries were affected by the bad weather and where refunds were required, they were processed without delay.'

But our consumer rights expert Richard Thomson said it simply wasn't good enough to ask people to wait 14 days before granting a refund.

He said: 'Despite the exceptional weather it's scandalous that a company like Tesco with the scale and size of the resource available finds it acceptable to take customers' money and then fail to deliver their groceries.

'Many families will be relying on this service especially at this time of year when money is tight, and they simply won't be able to afford paying out twice for their food shopping.

Tesco regularly posts annual profits in excess of 3 billion, so they can afford to be more considerate and generous to their online shoppers. An instant refund wouldn't go amiss and by way of compensation one of their Christmas shopping vouchers.'