July 8, 2020
by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Facemasks and other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been in high demand since the COVID pandemic began. Many people have flocked to online retailers to place orders. According to the FTC, some people have paid money and waited, and waited, and waited.
By law, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time. If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, it has to give you a revised shipping date and the chance to cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.
But not all sellers play by the rules. Case in point: The FTC alleges that SuperGoodDeals advertised next day shipping on its website, but failed to hold up their end of the deal. Not only did the company fail to change its shipping promise of “Buy Today, Ships Tomorrow,” and follow the procedures required by the FTC’s Mail Oder Rule, the agency also alleges the company advertised some items as “authentic,” “certified,” or being of a certain quality or specific brand but were actually counterfeits.
Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, consider these tips to help avoid a scam:
Check out the company or product by typing its name in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what other people say about it. Read the seller’s description of the product carefully. If the seller has name-brand goods at steeply discounted prices, they might be fakes.
Look at the terms of the sale. Calculate the total purchase price, including taxes, shipping, and handling. Find out when you can expect your delivery. If you have to return the item, can you get a refund? Who pays for return shipping? Is there a restocking fee?
Pay by credit card. You’ll get protections under federal law, so you don’t have to pay for merchandise you ordered but didn’t get. If a business charged your account too soon, and didn’t deliver the merchandise on time, you can dispute the billing error and report it to your credit card company.
If you have a problem with an online purchase, try to work it out with the seller, but remember: you have the right to dispute a billing error directly with your credit card issuer. And if you suspect a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. To learn more about avoiding Coronavirus-related scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus.