Unordered Merchandise

If you receive unordered merchandise such as clothing or books in the mail, you may be surprised about your rights.  Federal law prohibits a company or organization from mailing unordered merchandise to you and then demanding payment.  It is legal to send unordered merchandise if it is clearly marked as a free sample or is mailed by a charitable organization asking for donations.

When you receive promotional merchandise that you did not order, you have the right to keep it as a free gift.  You have no legal obligation to return it, though you may choose to do so if the item is of substantial value; nor do you have to pay any subsequent bills the company may send you.  In such a situation, contacting the merchant may save you further hassles.  You might want to send a certified letter, requesting a return receipt, to inform them that they should send you no more unordered goods or invoices.

It is a different matter if the mailing you received was due to a mistake by the company.  In these circumstances, Georgia law regarding “unjust enrichment” obligates you to return the item paid for by another customer.  The company, however, will have to pay postage and handling or make arrangements to pick it up.

If you receive unordered merchandise and have problems with billing, you may contact the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division

You can also find information on filing an additional complaint with the U.S. Postal Service.

Although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not normally get involved in individual disputes, it would like to hear about any problems you have experienced with unordered merchandise.  The FTC can take action when there is a pattern of deceptive or unfair practices by a particular company.