MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South just issued an alert on a Camden, Tennessee-based web business. The bureau said Original SOE Gear has made a habit out of failing to fulfill its customer's orders. In fact, the bureau issued a 'F' rating for the company: 13 complaints to the bureau in the last three years -- nine of those in the last 12 months -- and the company has failed to respond to all but four of them. According to the bureau's alert, when the company's owner did respond to some customers' complaints, the owner often created online videos mocking the customers to "...intimidate, threaten and shame customers who inquire about shipping delays."
When asked about its 'F' rating, Original SOE Gear responded to WMC Action News 5 with two statements laced with profanity. To read both statements in their entirety, click here.
Online ordering doesn't get much worse than that, short of an identity thief hijacking your credit or debit card number off the web and going on a spending spree in another hemisphere. That's why I always tell consumers never use your debit card online. That's direct access to your checking account and cash. Instead, always use your credit card for online purchases. That way, you enjoy the built-in protections of your credit card, in which you're never liable for more than $50 of any disputed charge (federal law) and in which most competitive credit cards offer zero liability as a built-in feature.
The BBB said the Federal Trade Commission's Mail Order Rule of 1975 applies to online orders. The rule "...requires sellers who solicit buyers to order merchandise through the mail, via the Internet, or by phone to have a reasonable basis to expect that the sellers can ship within the advertised time frame, or, if no time frame is specified, within 30 days (my italics added). The Rule also requires that, when a seller cannot ship within the promised time, the seller must obtain the buyer's consent to a delay in shipping or refund payment for the unshipped merchandise."
The BBB offered these online shopping tips:
- Prior to placing an order, check out the company at bbb.org. You can read reviews and complaints filed through BBB on the company’s BBB Business Profile. If others have had problems getting products delivered or receiving refunds, you may too.
- Remember that a nice looking website doesn't necessarily mean the company is reputable. Look for a physical address, then Google it and see what’s there. Look for a phone number, then call it prior to ordering to see if you can speak to a company representative. Be wary of websites that only communicate through email or online chat.
- Ask when the item will ship and know how the company will contact you in case of a delay. FTC rules require companies to tell you when a shipment will be delayed and give you an opportunity to cancel the order and get a refund.
- Pay with a credit card, not a debit card. You have more protections with a credit card if your order never arrives.
- Print out and keep confirmation of the order with the promised shipping date, any other documentation of your order, and any correspondence with the company.
- Know what the return policy is. Are there special steps you must take before packing the item and sending it back?
- Don't get your item at all? File a complaint at bbb.org and ftc.gov and start a dispute with your credit card company.