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Consumer legislation governing Doorstep Sales and Services
I’ve no doubt that many of you have heard the dreadful stories about the vulnerable victims of doorstep crimes who have fallen prey to the unscrupulous pressure salesperson or the dishonest and sometimes threatening door knocking ‘tradesman’. It is then good to know that some relatively recent changes in the law, together with some additional advice from your local Trading Standards, is helping to protect the householder.
Development of new legislation
It was the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux’s (CAB) 2002 report entitled Door to Door - CAB clients’ experience of doorstep selling by Susan Marks that set the ball rolling. For the first time this report provided a mountain of evidence proving that doorstep selling by rogue traders was causing untold misery for thousands of victims across the UK. This report formed the submission of a ‘super-complaint’ to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Consequently the OFT launched the largest ever market study of doorstep selling resulting in two reports with recommendations to improve customer protection.
Public Survey - Doorstep Traders/Callers
(Report byTrading Standards Institute 2003) Download here
This survey of the public’s attitude to cold calling at the door was conducted by questionnaires, which were delivered to several thousands of households across the UK. Close on 9,000 questionnaires were returned providing statistically significant results.
The findings indicated that only one in a thousand respondents indicated that they welcomed doorstep sellers and 95.7% said that they do not want doorstep sellers calling. Sixty-one point five per cent said they had been visited at least once in the previous 12 months and 22.6% reported being called upon 3 or more times. Energy selling and double glazing came out highest, followed by house wares.
Ten point five per cent of respondents specifically said they had a bad experience with doorstep sellers during the previous 2 years, but a follow up question asking what type of product/service people had problems with suggested that this figure might be much closer to 26.6%. Only 1 person in 6 who reported a problem reported the matter to the authorities.
When respondents were asked if they could think of any benefit which doorstep sellers bring to you or householders in general, of those who answered the question 96.2% replied and emphatic “no”.
Door to Door Cold Calling of Property Repairs, Maintenance & Improvements - Long Overdue for Statutory Control
(Report by Trading Standards Institute)
This report, which followed quickly in the heels of the Public Survey, focussed on cold calling for property repairs. It argued that this type of cold call should be subject to statutory control or even prohibited, because of its close association with criminals calling door to door to defraud householders or to gain intelligence for some later crime where elderly people were at particular risk. The report was quite scathing about the ineffectiveness of the current legislation covering door to door sales and ultimately formed the basis for further Government consultation
The Government’s response
The Government introduced new consumer regulations to govern door to door sales - The Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008.
The new regulation didn’t ‘ban’ door to door sales (as the OFT report suggested in the case of cold calling for property repairs), but it did introduce a 7-day cooling off period for contract values greater than £35, enabling customers to reconsider what they had just agreed to. If the trader fails to bring the customer’s attention to this 7-day cooling off period an offence is committed and Trading Standards may be able to prosecute.
Of course, this new legislation isn’t as clear cut as you might think, but rather than delve into the minutiae on this website I recommend you visit my own local authority’s website’s pages for a very good summary of your consumer rights in respect to doorstep sales.
London Borough of Hillingdon’s Consumer Advice Pages How to beat the rogue doorstep caller
You can also print off a ‘No Uninvited Traders’ sign to place near your door here from Hillingdon Council's website. The sign tells uninvited traders “We won’t buy from you. We don’t need any advice. Please don’t knock. Just leave and don’t return. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.” The offence is created by The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 Provision 7 ‘Aggressive commercial practices’
No Cold Calling Zones
If your street suffers from the nuisance and criminal consequences of rogue traders knocking at yours and your neighbours’ doors you should get together with them and approach the council’s Trading Standards department to see if they can assist in setting up a No Cold Calling Zone. A No Cold Caller Zone is a designated area where the resident community declare they no longer wish to accept traders calling at their homes without an appointment. They operate in some parts of the UK and the designated area is marked with street signs that tell doorstep traders that they are not welcome. They clearly indicate to the trader that the residents are aware of their practices and look out for each other. Evidence from a number of councils who operate the scheme suggests that people feel more confident about saying “No” to cold callers in a No Cold Calling Zone and more importantly the number of cold calls does reduce. Residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for each other, use crime prevention measures at the door and report details about cold callers working in the zone to the local trading standards and police
Not all councils may operate the scheme and there are locally agreed guidelines that determine whether an area can be so designated or not. Further information can be found at the Trading Standards Institute website, but an internet search on Setting up no cold calling zones should return a number of guidance documents.
Further information about your consumer rights is available from the Citizens Advice Bureau
See also Bogus Callers (Distraction burglary) on this website
Updated December 2016