Last year, online sales reached nearly $395 billion. Predictions are for them to reach $523 billion by the year 2020.
The Better Business Bureau warns that sometimes, with such a huge volume of sales, mistakes happen.
Merchandise can get sent to the wrong address. Items that you did not order can arrive on your doorstep. Duplicate orders can be sent out.
Unfortunately, scammers have jumped into the fray.
Keep it or return it?
The Federal Trade Commission says if you didn’t order it, you do not have to pay for it. You have the legal right to keep it as a free gift.
Technically you do not have to reach out to the seller. But especially for merchandise of higher value, for the sake of doing the right thing, you may want to consider contacting them and offering to return it if they pay you for shipping and handling.
In other words, your conscience may tell you to make it right with the company, especially if it appears to be an honest mistake.
Favorite scammer technique
Sometimes it is not an honest mistake.
There have been reports to BBBs of one scam in particular in which consumers are suddenly notified that they owe $139.97 to a company called TRS Limited, located in California.
Packages from the company had been returned by the consumers. The company claimed they were not returned in a timely manner. Threats of collection agency notification are made and consumers are told they have 30 days to dispute the bill in writing.
If such a scam is attempted on you, notify the Kansas Attorney General’s office (ag.ks.gov), the FTC (ftc.gov), your local law enforcement and the BBB at bbb.org, where you should click on “file a complaint.”
Q and A from the FTC
These questions and answers on unordered merchandise are taken from the FTC website:
Q. Am I obligated to return or pay for merchandise I never ordered?
A. No. If you receive merchandise that you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it.
Q. Must I notify the seller if I keep unordered merchandise without paying for it?
A. Although you have no legal obligation to notify the seller, you may write the seller and offer to return the merchandise, provided the seller pays for shipping and handling.
Q. Is there any merchandise that may be sent legally without my consent?
A. Yes. You may receive samples that are clearly marked free, and merchandise from charitable organizations asking for contributions. You may keep such shipments as free gifts.
Q. Is there any way to protect myself from shippers of unordered merchandise?
A. When you participate in sweepstakes or order goods advertised as “free,” “trial,” or “unusually low priced” be cautious. Read all the fine print to determine whether you are joining a “club” with regular purchasing or notification obligations.
Keep a copy of the advertisement or catalog that led you to place the order, too. This may make it easier to contact the company if a problem arises.
Q. Where can I go for help in dealing with unordered merchandise problems?
A. Always start by trying to resolve your dispute with the company. If this doesn’t work, contact your state or local consumer protection office, local U.S. Postal Inspector, or the Better Business Bureau in your area for help.
The Direct Marketing Association also may be able to help you.