I just received a DVD in the mail that chronicles the presidency of Barack Obama (please put aside for a moment your personal feelings about our President). Although I did not order this item, it contains something that looks very much like a bill unless you read all the fine print. If you wade your way through all that fine print, you’ll discover that the company involved (and I won’t name them, although I’m tempted to) acknowledges that I didn’t order this item. The fine print tells me that I can follow a fairly complicated process to return the DVD without paying the purchase price or return shipping. In this situation, what really am I obligated to do?
The company, of course, wants you to either:
1. pay up without even thinking about it; or
2. pay up rather than later get a dunning letter for this item you didn’t order and just threw away instead of returning to the company.
What can you do legally, however? According to Title 39, U.S. Code, Section 3009, you can:
1. mark the unopened package “Return to Sender” and return it free of charge.
2. open the package and, if you don’t like the item, throw it away; or
3. open the package, like what you find, and keep it as a free gift from that company.
Given the fact that the company in this case is trying to scare you/guilt you into paying for an item you didn’t order, I would suggest that you elect either Option #2 or Option #3. You might think Option #1 is also a good choice, since it also costs the company some money, but it also tells them that you, in fact, still live at that address, and invites future junk mail/unsolicited mail.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service