Buying from a door-to-door seller
Whenever we buy goods or services from a door-to-door seller, we have statutory rights that we should be aware of. A door-to-door seller is a trader who offers goods or services for sale in homes. There are times when such selling is solicited by the consumer and other times when it's not. Irrespective of what prompted the sale, such contracts are regulated by the Doorstep Selling Regulations.
First and foremost, when we purchase a product or service from a door-to-door seller that exceeds the value of €46.59, we have 15 calendar days during which we can change our mind and cancel the contract of sale. This period of time is better known as the cooling-off period.
Legally, we have the right to be advised in writing about this cancellation option through a cancellation form, whereby we should be shown how and given a notice of cancellation. If we are not informed, then the contract is legally unenforceable.
Cancellation may be made in any manner - by word of mouth, telephone, fax, or by personally submitting the cancellation form to the trader. What is important is that the intention to cancel is made clear to the trader and proof of cancellation is retained.
For instance, should we decide to cancel the contract by sending the cancellation form by post, we should use registered mail, keep the delivery slip and a copy of the cancellation form. If we decide to use e-mail, then it is advisable to keep a copy of the e-mail. We should also remember that cancellation is effective on the day we post, deliver or e-mail the cancellation and not the day the trader receives it.
Once the contract has been cancelled, it will be treated as though it had not been made and any money paid should be refunded. Naturally, should we already be in possession of the purchased goods, then these must be returned to the trader in the same condition as originally received, without being used. The cost of returning the goods to the trader is the only expense that can be imposed on us if we decide to apply the cooling-off period.
Door-to-door sellers are also legally obliged to be in possession of a licence issued by the director for consumer affairs, and they must show it prior to commencing the sale. Sellers exempt from such a licence are sellers of foodstuffs and drinks, and contracts with the overall price not exceeding €46.59.
Unlicensed door-to-door sellers do not only commit an offence but are also liable to fines and/or imprisonment. Furthermore, any transactions carried out with an unlicensed door-to-door seller will be considered null and void. We have, in fact, the right to refuse any goods bought within one month from the date of delivery.
Doorstep contracts should always be made in writing and should include:
• Date and place where the contract is signed;
• Name and address of the consumer;
• Name and licence number of the door-to-door seller;
• Permanent address of the place of trade of the door-to-door seller or employer;
• Description of the goods or services sold;
• The price and terms of payment;
• Time stipulated for the delivery - strictly not later than 60 days from the date of the private writing;
• The signatures of consumer and door-to-door seller.
The Doostep Contracts Act also stipulates that consumers can be requested to pay a deposit only after the expiry of the 15-day cooling-off period. Moreover, the law states that once the cancellation period expires, we can only be requested to make a deposit of not more than 10 per cent of the price and that we should not be requested to pay any part of the remaining price before the delivery of the product, or at least part of it.
Ms Vella is senior information officer, Consumer and Competition Division.