The FTC recently announced it proposes to extend its Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule (the “Rule”) to orders placed online. If ultimately adopted, the proposed changes will affect advertising agencies and marketers of consumer goods doing business over the Internet.

The FTC is accepting public comments on the proposed extension of the Rule through December 14, 2011.  Comments can be filed online .

Proposed Changes to the Rule

In addition to extending the Rule to online commerce, the FTC is also proposing to make certain other changes.   Some examples of what is  in the proposal are: ·        

  • an amendment to allow sellers to provide refunds and refund notices to buyers by any means at least as fast and reliable as first-class mail; ·        
  • a clarification on sellers' obligations when buyers use payment methods not spelled out in the Rule — debit cards or prepaid gift cards, for example; and ·        
  • a requirement that companies make refunds within seven working days for purchases using third-party credit, like Visa or MasterCard.  (For credit sales where the seller is the creditor — for example, when merchants have their own store charge cards — the refund deadline would remain one billing cycle.)

Other FTC Rules and Guides for Online Advertising

The Rule proposed to be added to online advertising is an addition to several existing statutes and FTC rules and guides bearing on the subject of online advertising and commerce.  For example: ·