By  on June 5, 2007

ALBANY — Consumers in New York State who purchase clothing, shoes and accessories on the Internet will be protected for the first time under bipartisan legislation that has unanimously passed both houses.

The measure will afford online customers the same protection as those who make purchases over the phone or through the mail.

Those protections include:

-- Orders cannot be accepted for merchandise that cannot be reasonably anticipated to be shipped within 30 days.

-- All advertising and promotional materials must prominently feature the legal name of the company, complete street address and details about what conditions in which a refund will be issued.

-- If products fail to ship within 30 days, the company must clearly provide the buyer with the opportunity to cancel the order and receive a refund or receive substitute merchandise.

-- Companies must maintain records of all complaints of failure to ship merchandise or provide advertised services.

"For e-commerce to be successful, consumers need to have confidence in the online marketplace, and the assurance that sellers on the Internet will follow fair business practices," said Charles Bell, programs director for the Consumers Union. "New York consumers need and expect the same standard of protection for online sales that they have for mail order sales. While most online merchants are fair, prompt and efficient, where businesses fail to ship goods or issue refunds as promised, we believe that consumers need a strong New York watchdog to protect against unscrupulous sales practices."

The legislation is a result of an agreement made with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who received over 1,000 consumer complaints regarding the failure to deliver goods ordered online or other improper conduct related to online purchases. According to Cuomo, the complaints were "basic," and most of them concerned late shipment of, or failure to ship, the purchased product.

"Since there was no recourse on the Internet, since there wasn't a body of law that applied before, since the businesses frankly were a little bit more cavalier in the way that they handled these consumer complaints, the businesses were not being responsible," Cuomo stated. "We had our hands tied, because we didn't have a consumer protection law right on this issue."

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