Online Buyer's Guide

Shipping and Delivery

This is an often-overlooked area with special considerations. In general, look for the vendor's delivery options, restrictions, and policies. Read the fine print to find out if there are taxes, additional handling, or other fees; if the return policies include who pays for return shipment should that become necessary; whether delivery is available to your personal mailbox or rural address; and the expected delivery time frame. Check to see if this site lists any legal or commercial restrictions on purchase, transport, or delivery of your order, and what recourse you have in the case of unfulfilled or incorrect orders. In case your shipment is delayed, do business with merchants who don't charge your credit card until the item is actually shipped. Many of these considerations are especially complicated when you order internationally.

Take special care to consider the following:

Keep a record of your transactions, including the date, the name of the person you spoke with, and a confirmation number, as well as the estimated date of delivery.

The Law is On Your Side

Mail order and telemarketing laws also apply to online merchants. The Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), applies to all orders placed by phone, fax, or over the Internet. Under these rules, it's assumed that the item will be shipped within 30 days unless the merchant states otherwise. If the item you ordered can't be shipped by the promised date (or within 30 days), the merchant must notify you of the delay, provide a revised shipment date, and explain your right to cancel the order and obtain a prompt refund. You should be aware that merchants also have the right to cancel orders that can't be filled on time. If the merchant cancels your order, you are entitled to a prompt refund.

Next: Marketing | Contents