Consumers often complain that a business sends them products they didn't order, then sends them a bill. Lately, some consumers have reported this situation with a book seller called Bottom Line Books.

“I ordered just one book from Bottom Line Books and I received it and paid for it,” Mariana, of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote in a post at ConsumerAffairs. “After a while another book came that I did not order. Since there was no phone number or return info on the book I just let it sit there, and then a bill came charging me for this book I did not order. No contact or return info on the bill either, and since I was not sure how to contact them, I figured it would be less of a headache to just pay the bill, and along with the check I also wrote that I did not order that book nor do I want any more. I asked if I was placed on an automatic shipment by mistake to please remove me from it and any other future mailings. After a little while I received yet another book I did not order.”

Mariana is angry and confused, not understanding why she is continuing to receive books she did not order. And she isn't alone.

More than she bargained for

“I ordered one book from the company and decided not to keep it,” writes Katie, of Rancho Cordova, Calif. “Shortly thereafter, I received another book, but this one had not been ordered. There was no phone contact number on the invoices, nor instructions/policy on how to return the books. When I got online to make the inquiry, I found a number of complaints similar, if not exactly like mine.”

So, what are Mariana and Katie's options? Are they obligated to pay for the unordered books? Assuming they have not specifically agreed to join an ongoing “book club,” the answer is no. In fact, if you are sent any merchandise that you did not order, you have a legal right to keep the shipment as a free gift.

Federal law prohibits the mailing of unordered merchandise and then sending you a bill. Some states, like Illinois and Washington, have specific laws as well. In Washington, if unsolicited goods or services are provided to a person, the person has a right to accept the goods or services as a gift only, and is not bound to return the goods or services.

Goods or services are not considered to have been solicited unless the recipient specifically requested, in an affirmative manner, the receipt of the goods or services according to the terms under which they are being offered.

How to respond

What should you do if you receive unordered merchandise? While you are not obligated to send a letter to the company stating your intention to keep the merchandise as a free gift, it's usually a good idea to do so. Your letter may stop the company from sending you repeated bills, and if it's simply an honest mistake, the letter may help clear the air. You should send the letter by certified mail and keep the return receipt and a copy for your files.

As for Bottom Line Books, we are unable to shed much light on its business policies, and whether consumers, when purchasing a single book, have to agree to keep purchasing additional books. If that is the case, many consumers, such as Mariana and Katie, are completely unaware of it.

Oddly enough, Bottom Line Books does not seem to have a website. However, various online sites list its address as:

3600 Army Post Road
Des MoinesIA 50321-2906
 

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