PhotoWhoever said “better late than never” probably never ordered something online and waited weeks – even months – for the product to arrive.

And naturally, the consumer's credit card was charged the day the order was placed. A case in point – Lu, of Lower Burrell, Pa., who says she placed an order with PlanetRX back in October.

“I placed an order Oct. 2nd, 2011,” Lu told “They were out of stock but would refund me within two business cycles. Never received a refund so I emailed them again in November. Sent another email on Dec. 12th and within a day, a person emailed and stated my refund would be credited to my charge card within seven days. That was 45 days ago. So now it's been four months since my order was cancelled and I'm still waiting on my money.”

What the FTC says

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that's way too long. PlanetRX and other online merchants are governed by the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule.

The Rule spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers' money. Enforced by the FTC, the Mail or Telephone Order Rule applies to orders placed by phone, fax or the Internet.

“By law, you must have a reasonable basis for stating that a product can be shipped within a certain time,” the agency says on its website. “If your advertising doesn't clearly and prominently state the shipment period, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days.”

In Lu's case, PlanetRX should have sent a refund with the cancellation of the order.

“If the customer doesn't give you his okay, you must promptly refund all the money the customer paid you without being asked by the customer,” the Rule states.

The rule does not define “prompt,” but most reasonable people would probably agree it's not four months.

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