Staples to Pay $850,000 FTC Mail Order Rule Penalty

(Direct Newsline) Office supplies superstore Staples will pay the second-largest civil penalty ever for alleged violations of the Federal Trade Commission’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule. The settlement amount–$850,000–stems from an FTC complaint charging that the Framingham, MA-based Staples misled customers on its Website about the availability of its products and its ability to deliver purchases in the time promised.

Under the terms of a consent order reached with the FTC, Staples will pay the fine and is prohibited from making inaccurate “real time” inventory claims and promising consumers merchandise in a timeframe they cannot reasonably meet. Staples is also required to inform customers if the order will be late and offer them the chance to cancel.

The $850,000 civil penalty is second only to a $900,000 Mail Order Rule penalty paid by Iomega Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of portable data and storage products, in 1999.

In a statement, Brian Light, executive vice president of Staples Business Delivery, said, “Staples shares the FTC’s goal of wanting to serve the customer and agreed to this resolution once we were satisfied that we could maintain our high level of customer service, while satisfying FTC guidelines.”

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