What to Do About Late Internet Shipping

Late package? Find out what your options are.

Cropped Hand Of Woman Signing On Electronic Device Held By Delivery Man
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It's a common practice for online stores to promise to deliver purchases by a specified date. Unfortunately, the late arrival of purchases is all too common. There are ways to get compensated for late deliveries, but each situation is different. There are also laws that protect online shoppers from internet retailers that practice deceptive advertising by promising fast shipping and do not deliver on that promise.

Laws Regarding Late Shipping of Online Orders

The following laws apply to all retailers:

  • The company is responsible for shipping an order within the time advertised.
  • If a company does not promise an earlier delivery time, it must ship the order within 30 days after receiving the order.
  • If the company is unexpectedly unable to ship as promised, it is required to provide adequate notice to the customer, including weather-related problems.
  • Notices with revised shipping dates must be quickly sent out to all customers.
  • Customers must be allowed to agree to the delay, receive a prompt refund, or cancel the order. 

Getting a Refund

If a retailer is unable to deliver a package when promised, it is their responsibility to give the customer a full refund. If the package was delivered, but it arrived late, and if the customer paid extra for an early delivery, the customer can request a partial refund. However, retailers do not always oblige. Getting refunds, and being partially reimbursed for late shipping, can be challenging. When shipments go out late, some retailers do not contact customers to find out if they still want their purchase. Unfortunately for consumers, it can take a significant amount of work to get stores to follow the laws.

Contact Customer Service

Customers should reach out to the store's customer service department to discuss the problem of their late shipping. It helps to have the information about the purchase on hand. This includes the date and amount of the purchase, the shipping charge, the name of the carrier, the shipping invoice number, and the date the package was received.

Be Polite

It is irritating when an important purchase fails to arrive on time. If it happens, it's important to remain calm and polite when speaking with a customer service representative, even when it's clear that they are bad at their jobs. When customers get angry and demanding and lose control, representatives are permitted to hang up on the "abusive" customer. When that happens, the customer is back to square one.


If the conversation between the customer and the representative has advanced to the point of discussing reimbursement of shipping costs, the customer has a good chance of receiving at least some of their money back. It helps if they are fair with their demands. While asking for a full refund of the entire shipping cost is justified and legal, it may not always be appropriate. It all depends on the circumstances and how long it took for the package to arrive.

For example, if the purchase was a holiday gift that arrived a few days late, but arrived in time for the customer to give it to the recipient at the Christmas party, then getting a partial refund is appropriate. However, if the purchase arrived so late that the customer had to buy another gift to give to the person in time for the Christmas party, then asking for a full refund is appropriate.

It helps to stay focused on how much money is involved. Usually, the difference between full and partial shipping fees is nominal. Too many long phone calls and email follow-ups can turn into a waste of time for the sake of a few dollars.

The FTC Is on Your Side 

A lot of attention has been given to the problem of retailers not honoring the shipping dates that are advertised. The Federal Trade Commission is very involved in trying to educate online retailers to comply with the laws.

FTC attorney Heather Hippsley encourages shoppers who have had an unsatisfactory online shopping experience to contact the retailer first to try to resolve the problem. If that doesn't work, she recommends not ordering from the retailer again. However, when the problem involves a legal violation, she encourages consumers to contact the FTC at its toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP or use the online complaint form on the FTC website.