Buying by Mail

Posted on Apr 2, 2013 in General Retail Information, OCP

According to the mail order merchandise rule, a seller must ship your order when promised. If no specific delivery time is given or agreed upon, the seller must ship the merchandise no later than 30 days after receiving your order.

If the promised shipping date or the 30-day period cannot be met, the seller must send an “option notice” to the buyer. This notice gives the new shipping date and gives the buyer the option of either canceling the order and getting a full refund or agreeing to the new date. Instructions on how to cancel the order must be included in this notice. The seller must also provide a way for the buyer to reply at no added expenses.

If a delayed date is agreed upon and the seller cannot meet the new shipping date, the seller must send a second option notice. The order will be canceled automatically unless the buyer signs a consent on the second notice and returns it to the seller.

If the order is canceled, the seller must mail a refund within seven business days. If the order was charged, the seller must credit the buyer’s account within one billing cycle. There are however, some exceptions to this rule. The rule does not apply to mail order photo-finishing; magazine subscriptions and other serial deliveries, except for the initial shipment; seeds and plants; COD orders; or credit orders where the 30-day shipping requirement applies and the account is not charged before the merchandise is mailed.

Whenever shopping by mail, read the magazine or newspaper ad carefully. Remember, that the pictures shown may not always accurately depict the product. Whenever possible, investigate the product to find out if it can do exactly what the ad promises. Take note of the promised delivery date and the merchant’s return policy. If it’s not stated, ask for specifics in writing before you place your order.

Always complete the order form as directed. Any error can delay shipment. The promised delivery time or the 30-day period does not begin until the seller receives a properly completed order form. Keep a record of the merchant’’ name, address and the date your order was mailed. Be sure to keep canceled checks and charge account statements. They will be helpful in resolving any problems that may arise later.

If you do have a problem with your order, write to the company directly and describe the situation. If the problem is not corrected, contact the magazine or newspaper publisher that carried the advertisement. Publishers often try to resolve conflicts between their readers and advertisers. And, if you still can’t resolve your problem, call the Office of Consumer Protection, a division of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for assistance. If the mail order company is in another state, we will refer your case to the consumer affairs office in that state or to the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office in that locale.