FTC warns online retailers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning Internet retailers to offer written warranties on some products before people check out.

The agency has sent letters to top online companies reminding them that federal rules require they post warranty information where consumers can see it. Those warranty notices are especially important around the holiday season, the agency said, when people shop for gifts. 

“During the busy holiday shopping season, it’s especially important that consumers get the information they need to make informed buying decisions,” Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, said in a statement. “Internet sellers can help by making sure their websites are providing complete and accurate warranty information.”

The agency did not disclose the names of the companies that received the warning letters, since it is nonpublic information.

The FTC’s regulations require retail companies offer information about warranties for covered consumer products costing more than $15. Details about the warranty need to be posted near to the product when consumers finalize their purchases.

The agency has found “several instances” of online companies neglecting to include that information about electronics and appliances, however.

In a sample letter distributed by the FTC, the agency said that it found “instances where complete warranty information was not fully disclosed in close conjunction with the warranted product, or otherwise made available to consumers pre-sale.” 

The FTC warns the companies that it will go back and make sure that the websites comply with the law after 90 days.

If they don’t, businesses open themselves up to law enforcement action including fines and other orders.