More Action Is Needed on Consumer Mail Order Problem

HRD-81-41: Published: Jan 19, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 1981.

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Because many consumers are still subjected to mail order problems, mainly late delivery, GAO reviewed the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) activities concerning the monitoring, enforcement, and evaluation of the mail order merchandise rule. The FTC mail order rule requires the seller to have a reasonable basis to expect shipment to consumers within the time advertised or, if no time was advertised, within 30 days of receipt of a properly completed order. If the advertised shipment time (or the 30-day limit) cannot be met, the seller must so notify the consumer.

In its review, GAO found that: (1) the monitoring and enforcement of the mail order rule by FTC could be substantially improved if FTC regularly obtained consumer mail order complaint data available at the U.S. Postal Service; (2) there was a substantial level of noncompliance among sellers with the mail order rule that needs attention; (3) FTC needs to improve its handling and processing of consumer mail order complaints; and (4) FTC could improve its computerized database by including all consumer mail order rule violation complaint data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should have the Bureau of Consumer Protection use Postal Service complaint data, in addition to its own data and that of other organizations, to periodically analyze mail order problems nationwide and the adequacy of enforcement in the mail order industry.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should direct the Bureau of Consumer Protection to eliminate the practice of not referring to the Postal Service mail order complaints lacking proof of purchase.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should direct the Bureau of Consumer Protection to improve the accuracy of FTC's mail order complaint database to assure its reliability.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should direct the Bureau of Consumer Protection to require the regional offices to provide all mail order complaint data to headquarters for processing.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should have the Bureau of Consumer Protection evaluate the mail order rule's effectiveness.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The FTC Chairman should direct the Bureau of Consumer Protection to routinely obtain from the Postal Service consumer complaint data in a form useful for monitoring compliance with, and improving enforcement of, the mail order rule.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

 

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