Office of Fair Trading
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Don’t feel pressured to buy just because you invite a doorstep trader into your home, urges OFT
Consumers should not feel obliged to buy products or services just because they invited a doorstep trader into their home, the OFT urged today as part of its doorstep selling campaign.
The renewed campaign, which coincides with National Consumer Week, is reminding people that high pressure sales tactics can be illegal and that they do not need to sign or buy anything on the spot.
It follows almost 36,000 calls to consumer helplines so far in 2012 about doorstep salespeople who were invited into people's homes, either as a result of a cold-call or following an appointment.
The OFT campaign will focus on doorstep traders selling mobility aids and energy efficiency services after OFT reviews found concerns about some of the sales practices employed in these sectors.
Doorstep sales practices include cold-calling or visits to the home arranged by telephone and as part of its campaign the OFT recommends that consumers:
Take time to think about a purchase or discuss it with someone first. You do not need to agree to or sign anything on the spot.
If possible, consider asking someone trusted to sit with you during an arranged visit by a salesperson to your home.
Concerns about a salesperson or business offering goods or services on the doorstep can be reported to Citizens Advice on 08454 04 05 06.
The OFT campaign is primarily aimed at those aged over 70 years with women living alone a priority, especially if they are housebound or socially isolated. Campaign materials are being distributed by Age UK and various older people's forums and social services organisations. Neighbourhood Watch and the Direct Selling Association are also distributing materials.
Linda's 86-year old aunt was the victim of an invited doorstep salesperson selling mobility aids. Both Linda and her aunt are based in Leeds. Linda's advice to other people approached by salespeople on the phone or on the doorstep is:
'Never make an appointment with a doorstep seller without discussing it with your family or someone you trust first. If you do make an appointment someone should always be with you - do not let them into your home if you are alone.
'If you have been a victim of doorstep crime do not be embarrassed, report it to Citizens Advice.'
Judith Frame, OFT Head of Campaigns, said:
'Nobody needs to sign up or agree to a purchase on the spot if they do not want to, whether on the doorstep or in your home. Everyone also usually has a cooling off period of seven days to change their mind or cancel.
'Anyone who arranges a visit by a doorstep salesperson should consider asking someone they trust to sit with them during the appointment.'
Campaign materials are available on the OFT's doorstep campaign web page, including top tips to help consumers buy safely and with confidence on the doorstep or in the home. While the focus is on salespeople invited into home, the campaign and materials also cover sales made on the doorstep.
The OFT, Trading Standards Institute (TSI), Citizens Advice and Action Fraud are working together during National Consumer Week (starts 12 November) to empower consumers to stay safe when a trader calls, both in person or over the telephone.
35,879 calls were made about salespeople that were invited into consumer's homes to Consumer Direct between January and 31 March 2012 (when the service ceased operating) and to Citizens Advice consumer helpline from 1 April 2012 (when the new service launched) to September 2012.
Research conducted by Future Thinking SPA (pdf 450kb) in November 2011 on behalf of the OFT highlights that one in five people over the age of 70 admitted they would not be confident in deciding whether or not to employ a doorstep tradesperson. A fifth also indicated that they would behave in ways which might make them vulnerable to rogue traders such as insisting a tradesperson starts straight-away or paying cash in advance to get a good deal.