Mail Order Rights


Delays & Substitutions
According to the Federal Trade Commission Mail Order Rule, companies that sell by mail, telephone or Internet must ship orders within 30 days from the time the order is received. The only exceptions are:

  1. if the company clearly states a longer period in its solicitation, or

  2. if they receive incomplete information from the consumer, such as incomplete address or insufficient payment.

If the company cannot ship an order within the advertised time, it must promptly inform the consumer of the delay and the revised shipment date. It must also allow cancellation if the consumer does not agree to the delay. If the consumer decides to cancel, the company is required to provide a refund within 7 days of receiving the request. If the consumer does not respond to the notice of delay, the company has another 30 days to send the merchandise. However, the firm cannot further delay shipment past the 30-day extension without the consumer’s consent.

If the consumer is sent substituted merchandise and is not satisfied with it, the consumer is entitled to a refund. Mail order merchants must issue refunds within 30 days of receiving the consumer’s refund request and returned goods.

Mail Order of Gray Market Goods
Gray market items are often sold by mail order. Gray market goods are products manufactured abroad, bearing a valid US trademark, but imported into the US without the consent of the US trademark holder. New York law states that any retail dealer engaged in a mail order business selling gray market merchandise must disclose the following information, whenever it applies:

  • If the product is not accompanied by a US warranty;
  • If the product is not accompanied by instructions in English;
  • If the product is not eligible for a rebate offered by the manufacturer;

If a merchant violates any of the above provisions, the buyer has up to 20 days from the date of purchase to request a refund (or credit on a credit card purchase) provided that the item has not been used or damaged by the buyer.

Before ordering any merchandise

  1. Consider the consumer’s experience with the company or its general reputation. Do they usually follow through on their promises and provide quality products?
  2. Check out the company’s return and refund policies.
  3. Check the product’s availability.
  4. Be wary of the address of the company that the consumer is ordering from. Some companies try to pass off false addresses or mail box numbers as valid addresses.
  5. Check shipping and handling fees and don’t forget to total them into the consumer’s final cost.

If the consumer is ordering from the Internet

  1. Only provide personal information if you know why and how it will be used.
  2. Order on a secure server. Look for a padlock symbol or unbroken key at the bottom of the browser window.
  3. Printout the web pages that contain details about the transaction.

Extra Protection
Using the consumer’s credit card to purchase mail order goods gives you more protection than checks or money orders. Most major credit cards will withhold payment from the merchant if you notify the consumer’s card issuer of the problem within a specific period of time. This period may vary from 30 to 90 days, depending on the card or bank involved. Unfortunately, you cannot stop payments on checks once they are cashed.

For more information on the Mail Order Rule or to file a complaint against a mail order company, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission in the following ways:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Washington D.C. 20580