Mail Order Law, Wis. Stat. §100.174, helps consumers deal with a major mail
order problem: failure to promptly deliver prepaid merchandise. The law covers
any personal order where the seller solicits and accepts payment without any face-to-face
How it works
The seller must
ship prepaid merchandise or make a full refund within the delivery time shown
on the original order blank or ad (for example, “allow six weeks for delivery”)
or within 30 days if no delivery time is stated. The seller may extend the
delivery date by sending you a notice stating that it cannot send the
merchandise within the original delivery period.
You may then:
Write the firm
and cancel the order. The seller must then promptly send you a refund.
Write the firm
within 30 days agreeing to delayed delivery date.
Do nothing. The
firm must then ship or refund payment within the extended delivery time stated,
but not exceed 30 days after the original delivery period.
Make sure the
merchandise you receive in the mail is something you ordered. You are not
responsible for any unordered goods you receive in the mail. The law states
that there are only two types of merchandise that can be mailed to you without
your approval: contribution requests from charities and free samples that are
clearly marked as such. It is your right in both cases to keep and use the
product as you wish.
If you receive
unordered goods in the mail, you may consider it a gift. You are under no
obligation to pay for or return it. It is illegal for someone sending
unsolicited material to try to collect payment.
about ignoring goods sent after some sort of prior agreement between you and
the company (for instance, a signature on a postcard or an oral agreement on
the telephone). These may be part of a negative option plan. Many negative
option plans for magazines or books require a minimum purchase and then it is
up to you to cancel future unsolicited goods. For protection against the
account being turned over to a collection agency, contact the company in
writing to cancel any future order and return all unwanted goods.
information on negative option plans, please contact the Bureau of Consumer
Protection at (800) 422-7128 or read the online Fact Sheet publication
“Negative Option Plans.”
Even with mail
order law, there are safeguards to reduce mail order problems. Be sure to:
product description. Do not rely on pictures alone.
Check to see if
a delivery time is given and if return policies and guarantees are listed.
Record the name
and address of the company, the date you placed the order and a description of
canceled checks, and any other pertinent information.
Never send cash
in the mail.
Western Union. Legitimate merchants almost never use Western Union for payment,
as it cannot be easily traced. Legitimate merchants typically use credit cards
for payment, though many are now accepting PayPal online. These payment methods
leave records. If a merchant will not accept a credit card or PayPal it is a
warning sign that they do not want the transaction to be traceable.
authorizes the Bureau of Consumer Protection or any district attorney to seek
court injunctions for violations of the law. The court can also order the firm
to make refunds to Wisconsin consumers who did not receive their merchandise.
In addition, consumers may bring their own lawsuit to recover double the money
that was lost to a mail order firm, plus costs and reasonable attorney fees.