What are the Laws Regarding Late Shipping of Online Orders?The Rule requires all retailers, including e-tailers:
- To ship an order within the time stated in their ads or on their website when the order is placed.
- If a company doesn't promise an earlier time, it must ship the order within 30 days after receiving it.
- If the company is unexpectedly unable to ship as promised, it is required to provide adequate notice to consumers.
- Notices must be sent to the buyer promptly, with a revised shipping date.
- The consumer must be allowed to agree to the delay or cancel the order and receive a prompt refund.
Failure to Comply To The Law Hurts All E-TailersFTC attorney Heather Hippsley says poor shipping practices can erode consumer confidence in the electronic marketplace. "Consumers have quickly embraced e-commerce," she says, "but unless e-tailers deliver the same level of service and the same protections consumers receive when they shop offline, that confidence is likely to be short-lived."
"The bottom line is that when a company tells you it will ship your order in a specified time, it has to notify you promptly and inform you of your cancellation rights if it can't make good on its promise," Hippsley says. "And a company can't tell you that it's going to ship within a certain amount of time if it doesn't have a reasonable basis to believe it can."
Hippsley acknowledges that many of companies involved in past FTC law enforcement action received many more orders than they anticipated. While most had the inventory they needed to fill the orders, problems with processing and fulfillment kept them from getting the shipments out the door.
In an effort to "make good" with their angry customers, some e-tailers offered discounts or gift certificates redeemable for future purchases.
Consumers Should Take ActionHippsley says while these goodwill gestures were taken into consideration in the amount of civil penalties sought, they don't excuse violations of the law. "It's important to hold e-tailers to the same standards as other retailers," she says. She encourages consumers who have had an unsatisfactory online shopping experience to contact the retailer first to try to resolve the problem. If that doesn't work, she recommends taking future business elsewhere.
However, if the problem involves a legal violation, she encourages consumers to contact the Federal Trade Commission on its toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (TDD: 1-866-653-4261 or use the online complaint form at ftc.gov.