This Consumerist article discussing a Wal-Mart shipping mishap involving a customer receiving extra iPods argues that the FTC ruling regarding unsolicited goods means that you can keep good as a result of a shipping error. That is, if you did solicit goods, but the wrong ones were sent.
When I've tried getting more information on the legal context regarding this law in the USA, I seem to mostly find opinions and not any real citations or analysis of legal precedence and regulation. Like the Consumerist article, they don't seem to be clear depictions of the legal environment.
It seems that many retailers operate under the assumption that if they make a mistake and ship the wrong thing, but the original Rule's wording doesn't seem to account for errors:
Whether or not the Rule is involved, in any approval or other sale you must obtain the customer’s prior express agreement to receive the merchandise. Otherwise the merchandise may be treated as unordered merchandise. It is unlawful to:
- Send any merchandise by any means without the express request of the recipient (unless the merchandise is clearly identified as a gift, free sample, or the like); or,
- Try to obtain payment for or the return of the unordered merchandise.
Merchants who ship unordered merchandise with knowledge that it is unlawful to do so can be subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation. Moreover, customers who receive unordered merchandise are legally entitled to treat the merchandise as a gift. Using the U.S. mails to ship unordered merchandise also violates the Postal laws.
Are there other regulations that apply, or is this the end-all be all? Can terms-of-service agreements with online retailers stipulate that you agree to return incorrect shipments?