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Stand and Deliver

What happens when Web merchants make delivery promises they can't keep?

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This story appears in the November 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Staples recently had to pay $850,000 to settle an FTC Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule complaint. Why? Because the company failed to keep its product delivery promises. Specifically, Staples claimed on its Web site that it could de-liver products in just one day-when, in fact, the offer applied only to customers living within 20 miles of a Staples retail store, and it applied only Monday through Friday.

Is your Web site misleading your customers? Even if it's unintentional, doing so could land your business in hot water. "Delivery or shipping promises have to be based on fact, not hope," says Laura Fremont, an attorney with the FTCWestern Region office in San Francisco. "If you are going to say 'We'll get this to you in one day or 10 weeks,' you have to have a pretty good reason to believe you can achieve that."

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