protection for door-to-door purchasers

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 doorFrontF  St. John’s law professor Jeff Sovern had a post this week at Consumer Law & Policy Blog on the continued relevance of door-to-door sales regulation (Feb. 21, 2007).  Although “Door-to-door sales were more common in the pre-spam, pre-telemarketing era,” Jeff suggests that the Do Not Call Registry may have spurred increased use of door-to-door (“field selling”) by marketers.   This effect is also suggested by the New York Times article “For Youth, a Grim Tour on Magazine Crews,” Feb. 21, 2007, which outlines terrible abuse of the young people used in door-to-door crews (and has links to related materials).

A CNN/AP article from November 2003 asserts that the DNC Registry has in fact produced a resurgence in door-to-door sales. “Do-not-call list revives door-to-door sales”  states:

“Now that the national do-not-call list makes it impossible to reach millions of potential customers, some marketing companies are returning to an old-fashioned alternative: door-to-door salespeople. . .

“Other factors besides the do-not-call list have prompted companies to put sales staff back on the street. Unsolicited e-mail annoys most computer users, and improved spam-blockers make the tactic less effective. And it’s hard to persuade customers to visit a company’s Web site.”  . . .

“But door-to-door has its limits because it’s expensive and inefficient, said Walter Janowski, an analyst for the Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut.” . . .

doorFront “Door-to-door sales people also can run into similar problems as telemarketers—laws, most of them local, that limit or ban soliciting. Some residential communities and urban apartment complexes prohibit it. Some towns require permits or have other restrictions, as in Rockville Centre, New York, which keeps a “do-not-knock” list that residents can join.”

Localities have tried several tactics to protect residents from door-step solicitation and canvassing.  However, in Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y of N.Y., Inc. v. Vill. of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150 (2002), the U. S. Supreme Court struck down as a violation of free speech rights, an ordinance requiring permits and pre-registration for all kinds of canvassing and solicitation.  Nonetheless, the provisions of the ordinance allowing residents to bar uninvited canvassers from their property by filing a “No Solicitation Registration Form” and posting a “No Solicitation” sign were not challenged in Watchtower v. Stratton, and the Court indicated that such regulation would be permitted.

NoSolicitationS  Do Not Knock laws have, therefore, been enacted in localities around the nation, including Parma, OH (text); Berkeley, CA; New Brunswick, NJ; and Rockville Center, NY.   Under such laws, the resident must ask to be placed on the local Do Not Knock or No Solicitation list, and display a sticker.  The application form allows the resident to designate various exceptions.  If interested in DNK protection, check with your municipality to see whether it has a Do Not Knock list.  As the Watchtower Court reminds us, posting your own No Solicitation sign (and refusing to come to the door or engage in conversation) will often be more than adequate protection.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule  doorFront doorFrontF

The consumer’s most potent protection against making pressured or otherwise unwise purchases at home is the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule (formally known as Rule Concerning Cooling-Off Period for Sales Made at Homes or at Certain Other Locations; 16 CFR Part 429).  It is explained in plain English in the FTC fact sheet The Cooling Off Rule: When and How to Cancel a Sale.  In brief:

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel purchases of $25 or more. Under the Cooling-Off Rule, your right to cancel for a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale.

The Cooling-Off Rule applies to sales at the buyer’s home, workplace or dormitory, or at facilities rented by the seller on a temporary or short-term basis, such as hotel or motel rooms, convention centers, fairgrounds and restaurants. The Cooling-Off Rule applies even when you invite the salesperson to make a presentation in your home.

The item purchased must be $25 or more, and there are several exceptions (e.g., sales made entirely by mail or telephone, sales involving real estate, insurance, or securities). So, please read the Fact Sheet to learn of the exceptions, your rights to information, how to cancel, and what to do if the seller does not comply. 

  • For an interesting look at outlandish door-to-door magazine sales practices (and a rant against the mistreatment of animals raised as livestock), check out David Liss’ 2006 novel The Ethical Assassin.

 houseG  Below the fold, we’ve listed some of the materials you will find linked in the FTC Consumer Information “Home” Menu.   

  • After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home  
  • Auction Guides: Not So Hot Properties
  • Avoiding Home Equity Scams
  • Buying a Washing Machine? It’s a Load-ed Question
  • Cancellation of Private Mortgage Insurance
  • Cooling Your Home: Don’t Sweat It
  • Entertainment Ratings Guide
  • The Gifting Club “Gotcha”
  • Giving the Bounce to Counterfeit Check Scams Heating & Cooling Your Home
  • Hoax Targets Elderly African Americans
  • Holiday Shopping Tips
  • Home Equity Credit Lines
  • Home Equity Loans: The Three-Day Cancellation Rule houseG
  • Home Equity Loans: Borrowers Beware!
  • Home Improvement: Tools You Can Use Campaign
  • Home Insulation Basics: Higher R-Values = Higher Insulating Values
  • Home Sweet Home Improvement
  • How to Buy a Manufactured Home
  • How to Buy an Energy-Efficient Home Appliance
  • How to Protect Kids’ Privacy Online]
  • Internet Auctions: A Guide for Buyer and Sellers  doorFrontF
  • Living Trust Offers: How to Make Sure They’re Trust-worthy
  • Making a Buck: Employment and Work-at-Home Information
  • Mortgage Discrimination
    Mortgage Servicing: Make Sure Your Payments Count!
  • Problems With Holiday Purchases?
  • Project Mailbox III: Catch the Bandit in Your Mailbox Campaign Consumers
  • Reverse Mortgages
  • Real Estate Marketplace Glossary: How to Talk the Talk
  • Shopping by Phone or Mail
  • Shopping for a Home Equity Loan?
  • Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft  doorFrontN
  • Taking the “Bait” Out of Rebates
  • Trial Offers: The Deal Is in the Details
  • Unauthorized Charge$ On Your Phone Bill?
  • Unauthorized Charges Crammed onto Your Telephone Bill?
  • Video Games: Reading the Ratings on the Games People Play
  • VoIP: It’s A Phone, It’s a Computer, It’s …
  • Warranties for Newly Built Homes: Know Your Options
  • Wash Daze: Laundry Gadgets Won’t Lighten the Load
  • Weathering the High Cost of Heating Your Home
  • Weighing the Evidence in Diet Ads
  • When Your Computer Calls Overseas …Without Your Okay  doorFront
  • Work-at-Home Schemes
  • Appliance Labeling Rule Homepage
  • Disclosing Energy Efficiency Information: A Guide for Online Sellers of Appliances 
  • Internet Auctions: A Guide for Buyer and Sellers
  • Project Mailbox III: Catch the Bandit in Your Mailbox Campaign Busines
  • Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act
  • R-Value Rule – 16 CFR 460

1 Comment

  1. raubin

    June 14, 2007 @ 8:02 am

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    Yes it is getting extremely hard for salesmen to operate, but from a personal point of view – I would never purchase something from someone working on the street door to door.

    I understand that is how you work alot in the states, I have a couple of friends working in Real Estate in the states and getting your name and face about is one of the main ways of promoting your business.

    Here in Spain, as well as the UK, telesales is still very much the way to sell but there is a callers protection called TPS (telephone preference service) enabling people to register their telephone number to protect again cold calling.

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