The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
Enforced by the FTC, the Mail or Telephone Order Rule applies to orders placed by phone, fax, or the Internet. The FTC Merchant obligations rule spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers’ money.
Your compliance can have bottom-line benefits for your company — that is, satisfied customers are repeat customers. Complying With The Rule By law, you must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time. If your advertising doesn’t clearly and prominently state the shipment period, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days.
If you can’t ship within the promised time (or within 30 days if you made no promise), you must notify the customer of the delay, provide a revised shipment date and explain his right to cancel and get a full and prompt refund.
For definite delays of up to 30 days, you may treat the customer’s silence as agreeing to the delay. But for longer or indefinite delays — and second and subsequent delays — you must get the customer’s written, electronic, or verbal consent to the delay.
If the customer doesn’t give you his okay, you must promptly refund all the money the customer paid you without being asked by the customer.
Running Late on a Shipment?
Running Late? Overwhelmed with Orders? The Rule gives you several ways to deal with an unexpected demand. You can change your shipment promises up to the point the consumer places the order if you reasonably believe that you can ship by the new date. The updated information overrides previous promises and reduces your need to send delay notices. Be sure to tell your customer the new shipment date before you take the order.
You must provide a delay option notice if you can’t ship within the originally promised time. The Rule lets you use a variety of ways to provide the notice, including e‑mail, fax, or phone. It’s a good idea to keep a record of what your notice states, when you provide it, and the customer’s response.
Canceling the Order
Finally, you have the right to cancel orders that you can’t fill in a timely manner, but you must promptly notify the customer of your decision and make a prompt refund.