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AG Chris Koster | FAQs
Missouri Attorney General
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Buying Tips

This is the full consumer publication on buying tips. Printer friendly version.

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The Attorney General's Office receives many calls each year on the Consumer Protection Hotline about problems with mail order firms and shopping in general. Federal and state laws prohibit deceptive mail order practices. In addition, federal law specifies certain procedures that companies must follow when merchandising through the mail.

Mail order

Before you mail order

Before you mail order:

  • Look closely at the advertisement. Pictures can be deceiving.
  • Order from reputable firms. If in doubt, call the Better Business Bureau, which has offices in:
    St. Louis: 314-645-3300
    Kansas City: 816-421-7800
    Springfield: 417-862-4222
  • Determine the extent of any warranty before ordering.
  • Be wary of any offers that fail to offer a money-back guarantee.

Mail order delays

After ordering merchandise, you have the right to receive the items in a reasonable amount of time. If the delivery time is not mentioned in the advertisement, 30 days after receipt of payment is considered reasonable.

If the delivery date cannot be met, the seller must notify you of the new delivery date. If the new delivery date is expected to be more than 30 days after the original date promised, the seller must provide an easy, cost-free method for you to respond whether you wish to cancel the order or accept the new delivery date.

If the new delivery date is less than 30 days after the original promised time, the same procedure occurs, but failure by you to respond will be considered acceptance of the new delivery date.

Mail order refunds

If a prepaid order is canceled the seller must mail your refund within seven business days. If you charged your purchase, the seller must adjust your account within one billing cycle.

Mail orders and damaged merchandise

If, before opening a package, it is obvious an item is damaged and it was delivered by regular U.S. mail, write "Refused" on the package and return it to the seller. No new postage will be required.

If the damage is concealed, repackage it, include a note stating the problem and return it to the sender (you will have to pay the postage).

Any unsatisfactory merchandise should be reported to the seller. If the problem is not quickly resolved and you think the seller has been deceptive in its advertisements or has been unfair, report the incident to your local postal inspector or call the Attorney General's Office, 800-392-8222.

Refunds, exchanges, returns

There is no state law in Missouri on refund or layaway policies. Stores set their policies: A retailer can offer you a cash refund, credit, exchange -- or nothing. If a store does not post its policies, it is your responsibility to ask.

Garage sales, auctions, flea markets

Before buying any new or used item at a garage sale, remember: There generally are no warranties or refunds on the merchandise.


Missouri has no state law that allows you to cancel an order with a retailer and expect a partial or full refund of your money. Before you put money down or sign a contract, find out what a store's cancellation policy is.

Unordered merchandise

By law, unordered merchandise is considered a free gift. You have no obligation to pay for it or return it.

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