"KNOW YOUR RIGHTS"
Consumer Protection Series - Compliments of Texas Attorney General's Office
One of the most frequent consumer "rip-offs" is the door-to-door sale scam. Products frequently sold door-to-door and misrepresented include home improvements, such as siding and storm windows, funeral service contracts, books, and magazines. Of course, not every door-to-door seller of these products makes misrepresentations. However, when someone solicits you at home, you should know your rights and how to avoid becoming a rip-off victim.
WHAT IS A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALE?
There are some specific legal definitions of door-to-door sales, what is covered, and what isn't. A door-to-door sale [under the law a "home solicitation transaction"] takes place whenever the consumer is at his residence or the residence of another person and purchases goods or services payable in cash or installments of more than $25.
*Sales of farm equipment and insurance are not regulated under this particular law.
*If the consumer purchases real estate, the cost must be more than $100 and he must be at his own residence, without an attorney or broker to assist in the transaction.
*The solicitation must be made in person, not over the phone in order for the law on door-to-door sales to apply. But the law will apply if any part of the solicitation involves the seller coming to your home or workplace.
WATCH OUT FOR TRICKS
*Be suspicious of anyone who tries to sell the service or product by playing on your emotions. For example, some sellers will suggest you are shirking your responsibilities to your family if you don't want to buy their product.
*Be suspicious of anyone who tells you he is selling the service or product at the lowest price or who tells you his competitors do bad work.
*Be suspicious of anyone who says he has done other work in your city or neighborhood, but refuses to give you the names of some past customers, no matter what his excuse.
Ask yourself how you will get your money back if the salesperson doesn't deliver or if the product is defective. If you buy from a reputable local business, you can always take the product back. If you buy from a fly-by-night seller, chances are you'll never see him or her again.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Under the Texas Home Solicitation Transactions Act [Art. 5069-13.01 VATS] the door-to-door seller must do the following:
*Provide the consumer with a copy of the contract or receipt at the time of the sale in the appropriate language. For example, if the salesman and the consumer spoke in Spanish during the sale, the contract must also be in Spanish.
*The contract or receipt must show the date of the sale, the name and address of the merchant, and a statement to the buyer of his right to cancel the contract. Under Texas law, you have three days to cancel your sale. After proper cancellation, the seller has 10 days to refund your money and return any trade-in item.
*Provide the consumer with a notice of cancellation giving the consumer the address where he may send written notice of the cancellation.
*If the seller made any "improvements" to your property and you want it restored to its original condition, the seller must do so.
CANCELLING A DOOR-TO-DOOR SALE
If the seller has provided you with the right forms, you may simply sign the one titled "notice of cancellation", date it, and mail it to the merchant's address. In order to obtain a full refund, you must do this before midnight of the third business day after the sale. Keep a copy of the form.
If the seller did not provide such a form, you may still cancel your contract. Because the seller has violated the law in failing to provide the form, the buyer has extra time. But remember, you must cancel in writing. Be sure to keep a copy of the contract and your letter notifying the seller of cancellation. Of course, the sooner you do this, the better.
IF YOU CANCEL THE CONTRACT
*After you cancel, the seller has 10 business days to either refund your money or return any note you may have signed in connection with the sale.
*The seller of the goods must notify you within 10 days whether he intends to retrieve the goods or abandon them. He may not require you to mail or ship the goods back to him.
*If the seller fails to notify the consumer of his intention to repossess the goods within 20 days after cancellation, the consumer may not be forced to return the goods at a later date. The consumer is not obliged to return goods to the seller until he has recovered either his money, his note, or both.
DON'T BE A VICTIM
*Don't be pushed into signing a contract or giving your money to a salesperson unless you're sure you want this product. Take time to think about it. You should always do some comparison shopping. Remember, any time you get a "once in a lifetime" offer, you should be suspicious. *You must receive a Notice of Cancellation under Texas law. You always have 3 days to cancel the contract, regardless of whether you have received any goods or services.
*Keep your receipt or contract and a copy of your notice of cancellation. You may need them if you must seek legal help.
*Contact your Better Business Bureau before buying anything door-to-door. Ask if they have had any complaints about the company.
*If you have other questions, or believe you have been "ripped off," contact your Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General's Consumer Protection office nearest you. We're here to help you.