Claims a $4500 vacuum cleaner and air filter could remove cancer-causing particles from the air were part of the six-hour sales pitch Dunedin woman Petrina Virtue said she had to endure when a door-to-door salesman came calling.

Petrina was phoned last month by a rep from Sica Limited, offering her a gift of a set of coasters or a glass chopping board if she agreed to a demonstration of the company’s “home purification system”.

Petrina said the home purification system turned out to be $4500 Monarch vacuum cleaner and an equally expensive Envirotect air filter.

“Of course, I wasn’t willing to pay this, so the rep rang his boss several times to get the ‘best deal’ for me,” she said.

Keen to get rid of him after nearly six hours, Petrina said she signed up to buy the vacuum cleaner on credit for $3750. The next day, she cancelled the sale and called our advisory service to warn others about the company’s sales tactics.

Consumer adviser Maggie Edwards said door-to-door vacuum sellers have been a regular cause of complaints. “They cold-call offering a free gift or leave a flier in your mailbox claiming they have an item to deliver. You only find out they’re selling overpriced vacuum cleaners when the sales rep turns up.”

In 2012, a $3000 Envirotect-brand vacuum cleaner sold door-to-door rated bottom in our test of top-end cleaners, scoring no better for carpet cleaning than a vacuum you can buy for less than $100.

Consumer head of testing Paul Smith said the price of vacuums sold door-to-door was several times what you’d pay in a retail store. “You can pick-up one of our top-rated cleaners for about $500. If a door-to-door trader tries to convince you to shell out more than $3000 on a vacuum, the best thing you can do is show them the door.”

We’ve written numerous articles about door-to-door sellers flogging over-priced vacuum cleaners. We don’t like the tactics employed by these companies or their products.

Sica Limited director Keri Neame said the company stood by its practices and was “not like those other companies that have given this industry such a bad name”. Ms Neame said the company didn’t claim its products could remove “cancer-causing particles” but did claim its air purifier uses “multi-level filtration, charcoal and negative ion as well as UV light technology that is designed to reduce viruses”.

Your rights

If you agree to buy a product from a door-to-door trader, you have five working days to cancel after you receive a copy of the sales agreement. The seller must inform you of your cancellation rights. You can cancel during this time for any reason and the seller must refund any money you’ve paid.

Contact us for a free “Do Not Knock” sticker if you don’t want door-to-door sellers to call. We’re distributing the stickers as part of our campaign to fight back against door-to-door dealers. The stickers can be put on your letter box, front door or anywhere prominent to warn door-to-door traders not to knock.