The Law in Your Life

Consumer Rights

Telephone and Mail Order Goods or Solicitations

Because this area has exploded in the past decade, telephone orders and mail order solicitations have their own set of rules which often vary by state. This section does not deal with each state's telephone/mail order rules, but a brief overview might help you to understand if you should research your case further.

If you order goods by telephone it is best to use a credit card. What if the goods never arrive? While you can call the company and complain, this action does not protect your rights. You must send a separate written statement that indicates a billing error notice to the credit card company. You should always send such written notice "Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested." This ensures that you will have proof that you sent your notice and the return receipt gives you proof that the company actually received your notice. Your notice must reach the company within sixty (60) days of the date the first bill containing the error was received by you. In your notice you must include your name, address, telephone number, and a statement of what you ordered, what you were billed, and that you have not received these goods.

Within thirty (30) days after they receive your notice, the credit card company must notify you that they received your notice and that they are conducting an investigation. Within ninety (90) days the credit card company must provide to you the results of its investigation and state whether it agrees with your claim, or why it disagrees with you. During the time of this investigation, be sure to pay all other charges on your credit card account. Your failure to do so will likely adversely affect your credit report.

If the credit card company agrees with you, it must credit your account with all of the charges associated with that purchase. If the credit card company disagrees with you, you should examine the reasons why the credit card company disagrees with you. If you still feel you have a valid claim, you might consider further legal action, either Small Claims Court or hiring a lawyer if the value of the goods is worth the cost.

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