Shipping and Delays. The Federal Trade Commission’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, also known as the “30-Day Rule,” imposes basic shipping and refund rules on businesses. When you advertise merchandise online—for example at eBay—and don’t say anything about when you plan to ship, you’re expected to ship within 30 days from when you receive the payment and information needed to fill the order. If your listing states when you’ll ship the merchandise — for example, within two days of payment — you must have a reasonable basis for believing you can meet this shipping deadline. If there’s a delay and it will take longer than 30 days for you to ship (or longer than you promised), you have two choices.
- You can ask for the customer’s consent to the delay. If you can’t get consent regarding the delay, you must, without being asked, refund the money the customer paid you for the unshipped merchandise
- Cancel the order. You can simply cancel the order, notify the customer, and refund the payment.
Keep a record of how you notified the customer about the delay, whether by email, phone, fax, or regular mail, when you gave it, and the customer’s response, if any.
Returns and Refunds
Once a sale is complete, you don’t have to give a refund. The only exceptions are if:
- your goods were defective or not as advertised, or
- you have a policy that allows a refund for returns.
If you want to provide refunds and impose conditions on when merchandise can be returned, you must post your return and refund policy prominently at your shop, booth, with your listing in your catalog, or mailing, or at your online store or website. A typical policy might require the customer to return the merchandise within 30 days for a refund.
State rules on refunds. A few states have laws regarding refunds as follows:
- California. You must post your refund policy unless you offer a full cash refund or credit refund within seven days of purchase. If you don’t post your policy as required, the customer is entitled to return the goods for a full refund within 30 days of purchase.
- Florida. If you don’t offer refunds, that fact must be posted. If the statement isn’t posted, the customer can return unopened, unused goods within seven days of purchase.
- New York. If you offer cash refunds, that policy must be posted, and you must give the refund within 20 days of purchase.
- Virginia. If you don’t offer a full cash refund or credit within 20 days of purchase, you must post your policy.
For more information about the FTC rules, call the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP or visit their website (www.ftc.gov). You also may get helpful information from the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org).