When you order an item online, you might experience a shipping delay. What do you do if the item arrives after such a long time that you’ve already received a credit card chargeback from the seller?

That has been Ian’s experience. He writes, “I have a little dilemma and am not sure what legal claims I have to a product.” According to him, he ordered a product online and was billed for it immediately. However, even after reaching out several times to the seller, he didn’t get any shipping information or an order receipt. He then filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau asking for a refund, which the seller agreed to.

Since the seller did not follow through with the refund, Ian then initiated a credit card chargeback request for the purchase, and the situation was resolved. A month after that, he received the item. This means he now has a product he hasn’t paid for. He queries, “I reached out asking for a shipping label to send it back, but considering their history of never communicating, what do I do…?”

Online sellers have to abide by federal shipping rules

If you order an item online (or by mail or telephone), the seller can’t keep you hanging indefinitely about when you will receive your shipment. There’s a federal law called the “Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule” that requires sellers to ship the product whenever they say or advertise that they will. In case they haven’t communicated when they will ship it, they should send it within 30 days of when you made your purchase.

If there’s a delay in shipping your order, the seller will have to let you know and give you the option of either getting a full refund (and not store credit or store card) or accepting the delay. A refund for a credit card purchase should be made within seven days of the order cancellation.

If you don’t respond to the seller when notified about a delay of 30 days or less, it can assume that you are fine with the delay and will expect the delivery. However, if you don’t get in touch with the seller and the delay will be longer than 30 days, it will have to cancel the order by the 30th day of delay and give you a full refund.

Getting an online order after a refund

In case there is any issue with an online order, you should try to resolve the situation with the seller first.

In case you get a delivery of something you didn’t order, you will not have to pay for it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises if you didn’t order an item and it is delivered, you can keep it as a free gift. You don’t have to return any goods you didn’t order, and the seller cannot demand payment for it.

Ian, since you did not get delivery of your product within 30 days of your order, and the merchant did not communicate with you either, you are entitled to a refund of your credit card payment. Since you did follow up with the merchant and the refund situation was resolved, your order has been effectively canceled. That means you won’t have to pay for the item and can keep it as a free gift. You won’t have to return it either.

Precautions for online shopping

When shopping online, consumers should take certain precautions. For instance, you should find out:

  • What the seller’s return policies are and whether there are any purchases you can’t return
  • If you or the store will pay for any return costs
  • If there is a deadline to return purchases
  • When you can expect to get a refund for returned items
  • Whether there will be deductions on refunds for expenses such as stocking costs
  • Whether you can return an item to a store location

Also, keep the packaging the product comes in (along with any prepaid shipping label) so that you can use it in case you decide to return a purchase. If you notice any damage, take pictures immediately to make your case. And in case you decide to return a product for whatever reason (maybe it is not what you expected), you should initiate the return process as soon as you make this decision.

The bottom line

If you make an online purchase, the seller is bound by certain shipping rules. In case of any issue with an online order, you should first turn to the seller to resolve the matter. A federal law lays out that shipments should be made within 30 days of the purchase or whenever the seller promises to make them. If your shipment is delayed for more than 30 days and you receive a refund for it, the purchase is effectively canceled. If the product is delivered to you after that, you will not have to pay for it or return it to the seller either.

Contact me at pthangavelu@redventures.com with your credit card-related questions.