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National Mail Order Association

FTCs Mail or Telephone Order
Merchandise Trade Regulation Rule

 
Introduction
 
To help you plan and operate your business, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") staff in cooperation with the Direct Marketing Association ("DMA") has prepared this information about the FTC's Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Trade Regulation Rule (the "Rule"). The Rule's requirements are explained in plain English. This discussion is followed by a question and answer section. The Rule itself is reprinted at the end of this page.

What is Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise? 

Mail or telephone order merchandise means the goods the customer orders from the seller by mail or telephone. Telephone order merchandise can be ordered directly or indirectly by telephone, including fax machines and computers.

It does not matter how the merchandise is advertised, how the customer pays, or who initiates the contact.

What is the Mail or Telephone Order Rule?

The Rule requires that when you advertise mail or telephone order merchandise, you must have a reasonable basis for stating or implying that you can ship within a certain time. If you make no shipment statement, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days. That is why direct marketers sometimes call this the "30-day Rule." 

If, after taking the customer's order, you learn that you cannot ship within the time you stated or within 30 days, you must seek the customer's consent to the delayed shipment. If you cannot obtain the customer's consent to the delay—either because it is not a situation in which you are permitted to treat the customer's silence as consent and the customer has not expressly consented to the delay, or because the customer has expressly refused to consent—you must, without being asked, promptly refund all the money the customer paid you for the unshipped merchandise.

Table of Contents
How to Comply
Questions and Answers


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