Sometimes salespeople call to your door offering you products to buy or services to sign up to. These salespeople often represent a trader like a gas or electricity company or they may be a tradesperson themselves, offering you services such as housekeeping or gardening. It can be hard to resist a good deal, but you should always do your homework before committing to anything. We’ve lots of useful information to help you make an informed decision below.
What is a doorstep sale?
A ‘doorstep sale’ is when you buy something or sign up to something in your home, someone else’s home or your place of work.
Examples of things you might often be offered to buy or sign up to in a doorstep sale include:
- gas or electricity services
- telephone or internet services
- housekeeping, gardening, chimney sweeping, window cleaning
- items you might buy from home parties - for example jewellery, clothes, fake tan and cosmetics.
Know your rights
You have the same rights when you buy something at the doorstep as you do when buying in a shop. What you buy must be as described to you, fit for the intended purpose, and of merchantable quality. If something you bought is faulty, you have a right to a refund, repair or replacement.
The salesperson or trader should treat you fairly and give you the full and correct information about the product or service being sold. They should not harass you or make you feel under any pressure to buy.
As well as these consumer rights, you also have some additional rights that are set out in law when you buy something on the doorstep.
If a salesperson representing a tradesperson calls to your home (or workplace) uninvited, and if the goods you buy will cost you €50 or more, then you must be given a written cancellation form and a cancellation notice. In most cases you have the right to cancel the contract within fourteen days. This is known as the “cooling-off” period. There are some exceptions when the cooling off period does not apply. For example, if you have asked for the service to begin immediately (you waive your right to the cooling off period), or if you buy a personalised product, for example a sports shirt with your name on it.
The cancellation notice must:
- Be clear and easy to read, and not hidden away in small print
- Include the name of the trader
- Give the name and address of a person that the cancellation form should be sent to
- Give a reference number or other details that makes the contract or offer easily identifiable
- Indicate that you have the right to cancel the contract, and that you can do so by delivering or sending a written cancellation form to the person named within fourteen days of making the contract
- State the date that the notice was given to you
If the salesperson is not clear about how to cancel, do not agree to buy or sign up with them until you are satisfied about how and when you can cancel.
Ask for identification
When a salesperson calls to your door you should ask them for photo-identification. This should include their name and the name of the company they are representing.
It is very important that you are satisfied as to the identity of the salesperson. There are many reputable companies offering goods and services but there is also the chance that the caller is bogus and is using a cover story to defraud or steal from you.
If you are not satisfied that they are who they say they are, check their identity by ringing their company using a number from the phonebook, or search for it online – do not accept a number they give you.
If you feel threatened or think the caller is not legitimate you should immediately report them to the Gardaí.
Tradespeople offering their services may not have identification, so it is very important that you are happy that the person is trustworthy before using their services. Ask neighbours for recommendations and see our section on tradespeople.
Don’t be rushed
Take your time before you commit to buying anything. Salespeople may encourage you to sign up now with “one-day only offers” or offering you a “special discount if you sign today”. Don’t be pressurised into making a decision unless you're absolutely sure. If you feel pressurised ask the salesperson to leave.
Make sure that the product or service is best for you
Remember, this is a business transaction and you don’t need to treat the seller like a friend or feel guilty for refusing what is being offered, or taking time to think about it. Make sure that the offer is good value for you and suits your needs. Shop around for similar products or services to see if you are getting the best deal available. Don’t be hurried into a decision even if you are offered a discount.
If you’re not sure whether or not you want to sign up to a service, ask for some written material you can read later and don’t sign anything until you have had time to read over the offer and understand it.
Also, make sure you are aware of the total cost to you, the length of any contract you are signing and the other terms and conditions of the contract.
Get it in writing
If you are trying to compare a new offer with your current service, it is important that you fully understand the new offer, including any restrictions. Remember - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Ask the salesperson for a copy of the offer or a brochure. If they do not give you this information, consider not buying the offer until they do, or until you review the details on the company’s website.
If you do make the purchase, be sure to get a receipt for the goods or a copy of the contract for service and keep it somewhere safe. If you are getting work done in your home, such as getting your house painted or gutters cleaned, get a written quote detailing the work to be done and how much it will cost.
Later, if you feel that you were misled about the product or service, it will be more difficult to pursue a complaint if you do not have written documentation.
Ask about cancellation procedures
Remember that, in most cases, you have at least fourteen days to cancel a contract from a doorstep sale. If the salesperson is not clear about the cancellation process, do not sign up until you are satisfied about how and when you can cancel.
If you do buy the product or service, make sure that you are given a written copy of the cancellation notice and cancellation form.