The Mail Order Merchandise Rule spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumer's money. Merchants who violate the rule can be sued by the FTC for injunctive relief, monetary civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and consumer redress.
By law, businesses (including online retailers) must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time. If they can't ship within the promised time (or within 30 days if they make no promise), they must notify the customer of the delay, and provide a revised shipment date and explain the customer's right to cancel and get a full and prompt refund. The fulfillment obligation begins as soon as a merchant receives a "properly completed" order. An order is properly completed when you receive the correct full or partial payment, accompanied by all the information needed to fill the order. For definite delays of up to 30 days, businesses may treat the customer's silence as agreeing to the delay. But, for longer or indefinite delays, and second subsequent delays, you must get the customer's written, electronic or verbal consent to delay. If the customer doesn't give the okay, the company must refund the money without being asked. A failure to ship on time or a failure to notify customers about delays, can adversely affect business by discouraging repeat business.