The Mail Fraud Laws - Your Rights as a Consumer

This chapter pertains to purchases made through the mail, telephone or Internet. There are laws in place that are specific to these types of purchases that sellers must follow or face federal charges. In the event that you are purchasing an item through the US mail then any fraud committed by that company can be investigated by US Postal inspectors. Today you are more likely to make a purchase by telephone or Internet (which will be shipped UPS or FedEx typically) and those purchases are protected by the Federal Trade Commission laws.

United States Postal Service Mail Fraud
Here's what the US Post Office says about orders you don't receive.

Legitimate businesses appreciate feedback. Check the offer for the delivery time frame, usually 6 to 8 weeks, and then contact the company. Please wait 2 weeks after contacting them before contacting us. When a delivery time is not specified, a Federal Trade Commission rule mandates fulfillment within 30 days, unless you applied for first-time credit with the company.

For more information on compliance rules for businesses, click here to read the Federal Trade Commission Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rules.

Here's the summary of the FTC rule as it is written for sellers:

The Rule requires that when you advertise merchandise, you must have a reasonable basis for stating or implying that you can ship within a certain time. If you make no shipment statement, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days. That is why direct marketers sometimes call this the "30-day Rule."

If, after taking the customer’s order, you learn that you cannot ship within the time you stated or within 30 days, you must seek the customer’s consent to the delayed shipment. If you cannot obtain the customer’s consent to the delay -- either because it is not a situation in which you are permitted to treat the customer’s silence as consent and the customer has not expressly consented to the delay, or because the customer has expressly refused to consent -- you must, without being asked, promptly refund all the money the customer paid you for the unshipped merchandise.

This 30-day rule is why infomercials on television will usually state "allow 6-8 weeks for delivery". By stating a long delivery time they avoid the 30-day rule and fall under a much larger time frame in which to ship your order. If you're having a problem with your order first contact the seller to resolved it. If you cannot get satisfaction from the seller than you can contact one of these government agencies and file a complaint. However the threat of filing a complaint will often get you the satisfaction you are looking for. And if you purchased with a credit card your credit card provider will probably be able to issue a "charge back" to the seller and credit your previous purchase. This is why I always recommend using a credit card for mail order purchases.

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