Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter.
By Harlan Levy
My wife and I order lots of things online – she mostly – clothing for us and three young grandchildren, household items, dog food, dog treats, gifts, shoes, a new suit (me), etc., usually from Amazon. What’s great about clothing is that we get multiple sizes, and what doesn’t fit we simply return at our local Whole Foods store or at UPS.
But sometimes an order never comes. Take, for example, the popular online shoe retailer Hey Dude Inc., acquired by Crocs Inc. in 2022, which has a big youth market.
The Federal Trade Commission last month fined Hey Dude $1.95 million for violating the Commission’s Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule by 1) failing to issue shipping delay notices when it could not timely fulfill consumers’ orders; 2) failing to cancel consumers’ orders and issue prompt refunds after failing to issue such notices; and 3) issuing consumers gift cards instead of sending prompt refunds of the original payment for merchandise ordered but not shipped.
Hey Dude also settled FTC charges that the company misled consumers by suppressing negative reviews, including more than 80 percent of reviews that failed to provide four or more stars out of a possible five.
“When retailers publish consumer reviews online, they cannot suppress negative reviews to paint a deceptive picture of the consumer experience,” FTC Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said. “And when retailers don’t ship merchandise on time, they must give buyers the option to cancel their orders and promptly get their money back.”
Your legal rights
The federal Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule applies when you order by mail, online, or by phone. It says:
- Shipping date: A seller must ship your order within the time it says it will. If the seller does not promise a time, it must ship it within 30 days of when you place the order. The shipment clock starts when the seller gets your order, name, address, and payment.
- Delays: If there’s a delay shipping your order, the seller has to tell you and give you the choice of either agreeing to the specified delay or canceling your order for a full refund. If you don’t respond, and the delay is less than 30 days, the seller can assume you will accept the delay and will wait for the order. If the delay is more than 30 days, the seller has to cancel the order by the 30th day of the delay period and refund your money. If the seller can’t meet the new shipment date, it must notify you again and offer you a new shipment date or cancel the order and give you a refund. Then the seller should cancel the order and provide a refund unless you say you accept the latest shipment date and you’re willing to wait. If you don’t respond the seller may assume you won’t wait and issue the refund.
- Refunds: If you paid with cash, money order, check, or credit card the seller must give a refund within seven working days after the order is canceled. If you paid with in-house credit, the seller must credit your account within one billing cycle after the order is canceled.
Now you know.
West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has been a consumer columnist for more than 20 years. He concentrates on revealing notable personal experiences and everyday consumer situations that either he or his wife encounter — sometimes ridiculous, outrageous, or downright laughable. But all relate to most readers’ common predicaments, including damaged goods and unresponsive sellers, unwanted automatic renewals, and various deceptive, insidious scams. He offers analysis, warnings, and practical solutions and advice.
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