e-tail complaints down

e-tail complaints down

Online retailers did a much better job of meeting their shipment commitments to customers during last month's holiday season than the year before, according to an official at the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who recently spoke at a seminar for e-commerce companies.

The 2000 online holiday shopping season "went very smoothly for America's consumers," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We know that online sellers toned down their shipment claims and beefed up their back-office functions . . . so that they were much better positioned to deliver on their claims."

That was a big improvement from the 1999 shopping season, when the commission was "inundated" with complaints from online shoppers, Bernstein said. After receiving those complaints, the FTC filed charges against seven retailers that ended up paying total fines of $US1.5 million under settlements announced mid-2000.

Early last year, the FTC warned more than 100 online retailers not to make holiday shipping promises they couldn't keep this time around. But Bernstein said that the commission has no plans to sue any retailers this year over their failure to deliver goods as promised.

Bernstein credited the 1999 enforcement actions with helping to improve shipments, along with the FTC's campaign last year to make sure that companies knew they were expected to meet their shipment promises. She spoke as part of a seminar on online retailing rules that the FTC is holding in conjunction with the Electronic Retailing Association trade group.

The FTC's belief that things have improved for online shoppers is based on a review of the complaints it receives, as well as those collected by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Complete statistics are not yet available, but a BBB spokeswoman said the complaints submitted to that organisation were definitely down in the latest shopping season. The official complaint figures are expected to be available in March, she added.

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