In today’s era of online shopping, it’s all too easy to click on an icon to order something. You may even order an item by mistake. If you have buyer’s remorse and cancel a purchase order, for whatever reason, are you still responsible for the payment?

Reader Brian, for one, queries: “My question involves the delivery of a product for which I had canceled the order.  The cancellation was acknowledged by the vendor. I was further advised by the vendor that there would be no further action needed by me.

Some ten days later, a package is delivered to me. It came from the vendor. Am I required to pay for this as I did not order it again?”

Sellers can’t charge for goods you didn’t order

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that businesses cannot send merchandise you didn’t order and then charge you for it. That means you don’t have to pay for goods you get and that you didn’t order. By extension, if you have canceled your order and the vendor acknowledged the cancellation, the same would apply.

You don’t even have to return such merchandise, it seems, and can hold on to it as a free gift. Sometimes, sellers might send you a free gift or sample. Or a charity could send you a gift and then ask for a donation. You can keep such products and don’t need to pay for them.

Credit card dispute rights

If a seller goes ahead and ships your canceled order, and your credit card is charged for it, you do have certain rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act. This act covers billing errors, such as those involving charges for goods you didn’t accept, goods that were not delivered as agreed or unauthorized charges.

To invoke such rights, you will have to put in a billing dispute with your credit card issuer within 60 days from the date the issuer sent the first statement with this charge on it. And you have to dispute this charge in writing. If you don’t follow these procedures, you could be held responsible for the charge.

You should send a letter to your card issuer at the address it provides for billing disputes and inquiries. Make sure you are not sending this letter to the address your issuer provides for making your card payments. If your issuer allows you to dispute errors online or with a phone call, you should still follow up with a letter “to be sure that you get the full protection of the law.”

Unless the issue has been resolved by then, the issuer should acknowledge your letter in writing within 30 days of getting it. And it should sort out your dispute within two billing cycles of getting your letter. However, it shouldn’t take more than 90 days to resolve this issue. While the investigation is ongoing, you won’t need to pay the amount that is in dispute, or any finance charges on this, but you will have to continue paying the rest of your charges.

Before you start an FCBA dispute, you could first contact the seller and see if it will credit you for the charges. But make sure you don’t get delayed with this process so long that you fall outside the 60-day period for initiating an FCBA dispute.

Cooling off period

It’s also not uncommon to be subjected to sales pressure that makes you buy a product or service, a decision you may later regret. The FTC also has a “cooling off” rule that speaks to this sort of situation. It addresses certain sales made at your “home, workplace, or dormitory, or at a seller’s temporary location, like a hotel or motel room, convention center, fairground or restaurant.” You have three days to cancel such sales.

This rule doesn’t cover all sales that occur under such conditions though. For one, it doesn’t apply to sales made at your home for less than $25 or to sales of less than $130 made at temporary locations.

The bottom line

Brian, you won’t have to pay for products you didn’t order. Since you canceled your order and your vendor acknowledged the cancellation, you have effectively voided your order. If you do end up being billed for it, you can pursue your rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act.

Contact me at with your credit card-related questions.