ONLINE DELIVERIES ON TARGET

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — E-tailers got high marks Tuesday from the federal government for delivering merchandise in a timely manner during this past holiday season, an improvement over the year before when cybershoppers’ holiday gripes ran high.
In fact, no e-tailers will be taken to task for late holiday deliveries this time around, a marked departure from holiday 1999, according to Jodie Bernstein, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers reported fewer problems with online goods being delivered late than in the 1999 [holiday] season,” Bernstein said at a workshop held in suburban Washington to discuss what e-tailers must do to comply with consumer protection laws.
“No investigations tied solely to the 2000 holiday season appear warranted,” Bernstein noted. “In contrast, at this time last year, the FTC had already begun investigating more than a dozen online companies.”
As a result of that investigation, seven Web sites paid a total of $1.5 million in FTC fines for making delivery claims that could not be fulfilled, which, the agency said, constituted a violation of the Mail and Telephone Order Merchandise Rule. The Web sites fined were Macys.com, Toysrus.com, KBkids.com, CDNow.com, Minidiscnow.com, honeybakedham.com, and patriotcomputer.com. Under FTC regulations, companies are required to have a reasonable basis of fulfilling their shipment claims. If orders are to arrive late, then consumers must be notified and given the option of canceling those orders.
E-tailers did a better job this time around, Bernstein said, by toning down shipment claims, improving relations with suppliers and beefing up distribution systems.

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