FTC: No Terrorist-Related Delivery Problems Yet
On Sept. 14, the FTC asked the Direct Marketing Association to notify members that the agency wants to hear of any problems marketers have in delay of products and whether they see any violations of the mail or telephone order merchandise rules.
The rules require that a seller ship merchandise within the time stated in its solicitations. If a merchant cannot do so, it must notify customers that they have the choice of agreeing to a delay or canceling their orders and receiving prompt refunds. The rules also require the seller to provide a prepaid means of exercising that option.
"As a result of the terrorist attacks, marketers could end up with transportation disruptions, communication delays and slowdowns and shipment delays," said Carole Reynolds, a senior attorney at the FTC. "While it is unclear whether or not this will really affect consumers, it's important for companies to be aware that these problems could take place right now."
The FTC said potential violations of the merchandise rules that are byproducts of the crisis will be handled reasonably. Companies should call the FTC if they have concerns about possible violations.
As of press time, the FTC said it had not received an increase in complaints. Some companies called, anticipating delays in receipt of merchandise that is needed so their products can reach consumers.
Though few companies report problems, the FTC still advises companies to:
· Be aware of a potential increase in consumers' requests for credit card charge-backs for merchandise not received. Reynolds said that while each situation is different, "if something is not delivered when it is agreed upon, that is considered a billing error under the Fair Credit Billing Act, and, as a result, consumers can request a credit to an account."
· Allow extra time for receipt of payment because of mail delays, and grant additional grace periods.
· Establish a dedicated telephone line and staff to handle questions about consumers' transactions during this period.