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The Common Law

I Ordered a Holiday Present, and It Never Showed Up

By Luke Ellis, Fri., Dec. 26, 2008

I Ordered a Holiday Present, and It Never Showed Up

I ordered a gift from the Internet that I was going to give to a friend for Christmas. The present still hasn't arrived (even though I ordered it in early November), so I had to buy another present. Can I cancel the order and get my money back?

According to federal law, a mail-order company is required to send you the product you ordered within a reasonable time after you place your order. Some companies will expressly state how long it will take to deliver the product, which establishes the reasonable time for delivery. If the company's catalog makes no mention of the reasonable time for delivery of the product, there is a presumption that 30 days is reasonable. If a company cannot deliver the product within a reasonable time, the law requires it to notify you as to when the product will be delivered and to let you cancel the order if you have changed your mind and no longer want to wait to receive the product.

The first thing you should do is look to see if a reasonable time for delivery was mentioned and whether the company is late in sending you the product based on this time period. If there is no mention of a delivery time, then based on the fact that you have waited for nearly two months when the law presumes a default reasonable delivery period of 30 days, the company has probably violated the law, and you have the right to cancel the order and have your money refunded.

You may want to send a letter to the company, via certified mail, that states that you want to cancel your order and have your money refunded because it has not been delivered within a reasonable time. If after sending the letter you still do not receive your money back, you could contact the Federal Trade Commission to report that the company has violated the laws addressing mail-order sales (www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm). You can also contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office (www.oag.state.tx.us) to see if the company has violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, a Texas law designed to protect consumers.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Dawson, Sodd, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.dawsonsodd.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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