"Whether orders come in the mail, by telephone or over the Internet is secondary to the point that customers should receive the products they ordered, at the price they agreed to pay, and within the time that was promised," NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said. "The Internet has gone from dial-up modems to DSL to cable to fiber optic in a just a decade, not to mention from desktops to laptops to handheld devices. With today's rapidly changing technologies, it is important that FTC regulations focus on customer service rather than technical distinctions that could quickly become obsolete."
The National Retail Federation and Shop.org filed their comments Wednesday on the FTC's proposal to update its Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule, a set of regulations that govern mail-order sales in areas such as accurate descriptions of products, prompt shipping, notification of delays, and refunds. The rules were first adopted in 1975 in response to consumer complaints that merchants had failed to ship merchandise on time, failed to ship at all or failed to provide prompt refunds for unshipped items.
NRF officials said the rule change would likely have little to no practical impact on retailers, but that the goal was to clean up the language.
The FTC is also considering a change that would update the regulations' current list of payment methods – cash, check, money order and credit cards – to include new forms of payment such as debit cards, gift cards and services such as Pay Pal, NRF officials said.
NRF and Shop.org supported the proposal but said refunds for debit cards should be handled the same as those for credit cards because retailers frequently cannot distinguish between the two types of cards. Another change would repeal a requirement that refunds be made by first-class mail and instead allow them to be made by a means "at least as fast and reliable as first-class mail," such as private couriers or electronic transfers.
Other proposals from the retail lobbyists: