The Bureau routinely advises that by F.T.C. regulation, companies which sell by mail or telephone must ship your order within 30 days from the time it receives the order. The only exceptions are 1) if the company clearly states a longer period in its solicitation, or 2) of you do not send sufficient information such as an incomplete address or payment. If the company cannot ship your order within the advertised time, it must inform you in writing of the delay. It must also allow you to cancel if you do not agree to the delay. If so, the company must refund your money within 7 days of receiving your request.
If you do not respond to the notice, the company has another 30 days to send the merchandise. The firm may not, however, delay shipment beyond the additional 30 days without your consent. If merchandise is substituted in you order, you are entitled to a refund. In this case, a mail order merchant must issue a refund within 30 days of receiving your request and returned goods.
By using a credit card to purchase mail order goods, you can give yourself extra protection. Most major credit cards will withhold payment from the merchant if you notify your bank or appropriate card issuer of a problem within a specific period of time. This period may vary depending on the card or bank involved.
The Mail Order Rule does not apply to orders placed over the telephone and charged to your credit card, COD orders, or orders for which you send no advance payment. The Rule also does not cover mail order services such as photofinishing, seeds and plants, magazine orders, and "negative option plans" such as those used by some book, record, and tape clubs.
Whenever you shop by mail, be sure to record the date, name and address of the company, merchandise ordered, and payment made in case you need to reach the company about the order.