What Are The Rules For Mail Order Sales?

Under federal law, you must receive mail­order merchandise within a reasonable time after placing your order. If the seller cannot ship on time, you have the right to cancel. If the seller advertises a six­week wait, that is a reasonable time. If the seller does not state a delivery time, 30 days is considered reasonable. If your shipment is delayed, the company must notify you of the new delivery date and allow you to cancel the order if you choose not to wait the extra time. If you have already paid for the products, the seller has seven days to refund your money. If you bought on credit, the seller has one billing cycle to adjust your account. If the seller is unable to ship within the promised time period the products you ordered, the law requires the seller to notify you of your right to cancel the order. The company must send you a postage­paid business­reply envelope so that you can cancel your order or inform the seller that you still want the product. If the company informs you that it cannot promise you a definite shipping date, you should cancel your order. Even if you consent to an indefinite delay, you still have the right to cancel the order if 30 days pass and you have not received the order. Helpful Tips
  • Since many catalogs contain pictures of enlarged items, check the text of the advertisement to be sure of the actual size of the item.
  • Be aware that the quality of the product may be lower than it appears in the ad. This is particularly true of off­brand merchandise. Find out if the same product is sold locally so that you can see if the quality meets your expectations.
  • The performance of the product may not match the ad's claims. Weight­loss and body­enhancing products are especially notorious for misrepresentations. The more outrageous the claim, the more likely the product will not live up to it.
  • Make sure you will receive everything that is pictured. Often several items are shown in the photograph but only one or two of them are actually sent to you. Double­check the text of the ad before ordering to see if it lists exactly what you are paying for; don't rely on the picture alone.
  • Beware of price comparisons using "list prices" or "suggested retail prices." Often, as a promotional tool, a seller will compare the price of a product to the "list price." Usually, the seller's price is a significant reduction for the "list," making it look like quite a bargain. However, before you assume that you are saving money, check with a local retailer. The same product may be available in a local store for the same "low" price (with no postage or handling charges). Since few items are ever sold at the "list price," compare the seller's price to an actual price before ordering by mail.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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