In this context, I have in mind a typical business transaction, not a complex contract with explicit terms and so forth.

Suppose a business receives an order from a customer, and payment for the order is received in whole or part, but the business has issues with delivering on it's end because of circumstances outside of it's control, like a bad receiving address, or a bad email (often used as the customer's gateway to access virtual products). The business surely has a duty to attempt to contact the customer to complete the order, but what if the customer proves unreachable based on the means available to the company (phone, email, mail, etc.)? In other words, you call, but they never call back, or your only contact method is email, but it bounces back.

If the order was placed via a credit card, the business can easily issue a refund despite the inability to contact the customer. Even with payment by check, the business can send out a refund check to a mail address, assuming there's been no evidence of a bad receiving address. The question is, does this business have a legal duty to any such actions? I know credit card companies will typically not process refunds for transactions older than 60 days, so is there a time limitation after which the company may assume the order "complete" and retain the funds?

I'm concerned only with US Law. Specifically, the business I have in mind is in the State of Idaho, but most customers are not Idaho residents.

  • I think the tags on this could use work.
    – user608
    Feb 18, 2017 at 5:33
  • 1
    My guess is that the company would be required to send the funds to the state for safekeeping, under Idaho's Unclaimed Property Law. Feb 18, 2017 at 6:17
  • All "simple" business transactions are contracts with all the statute and case law that brings.
    – Dale M
    Feb 18, 2017 at 6:37
  • @DaleM I mean simple as a matter of execution and routine, not the inherent legalities revolving around it. For example, a marriage is a legal contract that can be executed quickly and easily, but the law revolving around it is extremely complex. If the legal aspects of a typical business transaction were simple, then I wouldn't need to ask the question, now would I?
    – user608
    Feb 18, 2017 at 7:28
  • @DaleM No, actually, I don't mean "simple" at all, as I never even used the word in the original post.
    – user608
    Feb 18, 2017 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


Provided the business stands "ready, willing and able" to complete its obligations on the contract but cannot due to some act or omission by the buyer the contract is still on foot and the business can keep the money until the buyer makes contact to resolve the difficulty.

  • 2
    Some sources would greatly improve this answer.
    – user608
    Feb 18, 2017 at 7:31
  • In some (I think many) states of the USA, that isn't correct. Instead, businesses are required to give abandoned funds, along with information about the person to whom they are owned, to a state agency which will hold the funds for the payee. This ensures that even if someone is unaware of any need to contact someone who owes them money, they could eventually get paid when the money is sent to the state, at least if they periodically check whether the state is holding any uncollected funds on their behalf.
    – supercat
    Jun 9, 2023 at 21:03

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