Keep Uncle Sam at Bay
As a cataloger, you must comply with several regulations. Yet I often encounter catalogers who unknowingly do not comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulatory agencies’ rules.
The following is an overview of the major regulations to follow when developing your merchandising, creative and operational guidelines. Remember, all of these rules apply to both your print and online catalog operations.
FTC’s Mail Order Merchandise Rule
This law covers the representation you make regarding merchandise and when customers will get the products. And it covers appropriate remedies when those expressed representations aren’t met.
Substitutions. This is an area in which I often see catalogers not complying. The law states: No substitutions that are “materially different” are allowed without customers expressly agreeing to the substitution beforehand. You can’t get around this by stating somewhere in your catalog or order form that you may make substitutions. Again, substitutions are not allowed.
“Materially different” means the merchandise differs in some way that’s likely to affect customers’ choice of, or conduct regarding, the merchandise. Any product feature would be deemed “material” if it is expressly mentioned or depicted in advertising. Differences in design, style, color, fabric, brand, country of origin (where legally required to denote), etc., would be deemed material. A substitution is permitted only if you haven’t shown the item in a picture and haven’t expressly described it.
Shipping Dates/Backorders. You must have a reasonable basis for any expressed or implied shipment date or, if you express no date, believe that you can ship within 30 days of receiving the order. This is called the 30-day rule.
If you change the shipment date by providing a delay notice, you must have a reasonable basis for the new ship date. Or you must state you don’t know when you expect to ship.