Online holiday shopping improved for consumers in 2000

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that the 2000 online holiday shopping season seems to have gone more smoothly for consumers than during the previous year.

Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, presented the agency’s assessment of online holiday shopping at the Etail Details Internet Marketing seminar, presented jointly by the Electronic Retailing Association and FTC on Tuesday. She said that staff’s review of complaints at the FTC, Better Business Bureaus, and online ”gripe” sites suggests that online sellers were better able to meet their holiday shipment commitments.

”Consumers reported fewer problems with online goods being delivered late than in the 1999 online shopping season,” Bernstein said. ”No investigations tied solely to the 2000 holiday season appear warranted. In contrast, at this time last year the FTC had already begun investigating more than a dozen online companies.” Bernstein said that online sellers toned down shipment claims and strengthened back-office functions such as supplier relations and inventory systems, enabling them to ship on a timely manner during peak demand periods.

During the 1999 holiday season, many Internet sellers were unable to meet their ”very quick shipment” claims, resulting in disappointed customers, FTC officials say. The FTC brought civil actions against well-known e-tailers for allegedly violating the FTC’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule. Through ”Project TooLate.com” the FTC alleged that these companies made shipment claims for which they had no reasonable basis and failed to timely or properly notify consumers of late shipments. The companies paid more than $1.5 million in total penalties.