Doorstep crime is when rogue traders come to your door uninvited and pressure you into buying something or signing up for a service. They often try to sell their product or service in a way which can be very intimidating.
What the law says
Doorstep selling is legal. If you buy anything on the doorstep or you allow the sale to take place in your home, your consumer rights are protected by law. The item you buy must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
14 day cooling off period
If you agree to buy something worth over £42 from a salesperson calling at your home, you have 14 days to cancel if you change your mind.
The trader must give you a written notice of your cancellation rights when you agree the contract. If the trader doesn’t provide you with this information, they commit a criminal offence.
Paying by cash or credit
The 14 day cooling off period applies when you buy using cash or credit. If you buy through a credit sale or hire purchase agreement, you have the right to withdraw from the finance agreement within 14 days, without giving any reason.
Some examples of door step crime are, traders who:
- tell you guttering, roofing, gardening or paving work must be done to your home as it is in need of urgent repair – this may cause you to panic and allow the work to take place
- take your deposit and never return to do the work
- charge unreasonable prices or increase the price of the work as the job progresses
- don’t have cancellation policies or give cancellation notices, guarantees or warranties
- produce poor quality work and refuse to sort out problems or finish the work
Tips for dealing with doorstep selling
Not all doorstep sellers commit a crime. Stay protected and avoid doorstep selling scams by remembering these tips:
- don’t agree to anything just to get rid of a seller – you don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to
- check the seller’s ID card, make sure you have their full address, not just a PO Box or phone number – check the address exists and take note of the ID
- if you tell someone to leave your home, it’s a criminal offence if they don’t do as you ask
- even if a seller tells you your cancellation rights, remember that once you pay them they have the money and you don’t
- get a receipt for any purchases you make – remember any guarantee is worthless if a business disappears or ceases trading so be wary of relying on promises about the future
- don’t pay the full amount or a large deposit up front
- get and keep a copy of any paperwork, advert or flyer
Exceptions to the rules
The 14 day cooling off doesn’t apply to:
- Perishable foods such as food and drink
- Land, insurance, credit and investment agreements
- Passenger transport services
Preventing doorstep sellers calling
If you don’t want anyone knocking on your door to sell you something, you could stick a “No Cold Calling” sticker for your door.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, it may be a criminal offence for a trader to ignore your sign.