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Press releases 2002 -

OFT action on doorstep selling complaint

3 September 2002

Doorstep selling is the subject of the second super-complaint received by the OFT.

The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has asked the OFT to look at problems consumers experience with doorstep sales in a wide variety of goods and services. The OFT will now fast track this super-complaint and announce within 90 days what action, if any, it proposes to take and whether it will launch a formal study into the practice.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said: 'I welcome the NACAB report and this super-complaint and we will respond promptly to it. A vast range of goods and services are sold on the doorstep and the report raises a number of important issues for consumers.'

NOTES

Super-complaints
The Government's July Enterprise Bill White Paper proposes that the super-complaints procedure will be enshrined in law. Prior to this becoming law, the OFT has agreed it will consider super-complaints received.

The super-complaints system allows a number of bodies to refer fast track complaints to the OFT. These complaints will focus on areas where the complainant suspects there are market structures or practices that are working against the interests of consumers. They are investigated by OFT's Markets and Policy Initiatives Division.

The law on doorstep selling
The commonly-called Doorstep Selling Regulations (SI1987/2117) say that if consumers enter into a purchase contract for more than £35 during an unsolicited home visit, they are entitled to cancel that contract within seven days. The business should provide a cancellation form, although a letter from consumers to the business will also be a valid cancellation. If the business does not provide a cancellation form, it is committing a criminal offence and the agreement cannot be enforced.

Certain kinds of contracts, for example, some insurance contracts, are excluded from this legislation.

Different cancellation rights apply to credit agreements under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

Some businesses which sell to consumers in their homes belong to trade associations which require their members to offer other cancellation rights.

What consumers can do to help themselves

  • ask a door-to-door salesperson for identification
  • if you don't want what the salesperson is offering, don't let them in
  • if given anything detailed to read get the salesperson to call back so that you have time to read it at your own pace and take independent advice if there is anything there you don't understand
  • treat special offers with caution
  • if you sign a contract and later regret it, you may be able to cancel it, but you will need to act quickly. If you want advice, you should go to a CAB or ring your local trading standards officer, who can be contacted through your local authority.



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