Door-to-door sales: Your rights

Thinking twice about that purchase from the door-to-door sales rep? We explain your rights and what you can do to stop doorknockers knocking in the first place.

Person in suit knocking on door

Q: A sales rep from a power company knocked on my mother’s door and convinced her to switch, against her better judgement. He didn’t leave behind any paperwork. She now doesn’t want to go ahead with the deal. What can she do?

Right to cancel

Your mother’s got the right to cancel and the sales rep should have told her this.

When you sign up to buy goods or services from a door-to-door sales rep, you’ve got a cooling-off period of five working days. You can cancel within this time for any reason. Your request to cancel can be made either verbally or in writing.

Not only should the rep have told your mother about her right to cancel, he should have given her a written copy of the sales agreement. By law, this agreement must include a summary of the customer’s cancellation rights.

Breaching the law

The sales rep’s failure to provide this information is a breach of the Fair Trading Act. As your mother didn’t get the information she was entitled to, she has the right to cancel the deal, regardless of whether the cooling-off period has come to an end.

Companies risk prosecution by the Commerce Commission if they don’t comply with the requirements for door-to-door sales. Penalties are up to $30,000 per offence. Companies risk bigger fines – up to $600,000 – if they mislead you about your rights or the products they’re selling.

In 2017, door-to-door retailer Auckland Academy of Learning copped a $351,000 fine for not informing customers about their right to a cooling-off period and misrepresenting the benefits of its educational software.

Door-to-door sales are a regular cause of complaints to our office, not least because of the pushy sales tactics employed. It’s the reason we launched our Do Not Knock campaign, helping consumers stop unwanted sales reps turning up on their doorsteps (see “Do not knock stickers”).

Your right to clear information

If you’re visited by a sales rep and tempted to sign up, the rep must give clear information about what the deal includes. Every agreement for a door-to-door sale must be in writing and:

  • clearly describe the goods or services being supplied
  • show the total price payable and any other consideration to be given (such as an appliance you may be trading in as part of the deal)
  • inform you of your right to cancel
  • list the trader’s name, street address, phone number and email, and your name and street address
  • show the date it was signed.

If the trader doesn’t give you this information, the agreement can’t be enforced (unless the failure is minor).

Make a complaint to the Commerce Commission if the sales rep doesn’t meet their obligations or tries to mislead you about your rights. Let us know too.

Do Not Knock stickers

Don’t want door-to-door sales reps to come knocking in the first place? Get one of our “Do Not Knock” stickers. The sticker can be put on your letterbox, front gate or front door – anywhere it’s clearly visible – to tell sales reps they’re not welcome.

As a result of our Do Not Knock campaign, the government has announced it’s amending the Fair Trading Act to make it an offence for traders to ignore a “Do not knock” sticker. Sellers risk being taken to court if they do so. Law changes are expected later this year.

If you’re a Consumer NZ member, email donotknock@consumer.org.nz to request a sticker.

Not a member? Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Do Not Knock, Consumer NZ, PO Box 932, Wellington 6140. We’ll send a sticker through the post.

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