Home invaders – fighting back against unsolicited salespeople
Whether it’s church groups, cosmetic suppliers or energy providers, when your door starts reverberating with that unexpected knock, the games begin. You’re in the race before you know it, your intellect strategically churning over winning solutions: Pretend I’m not home? Answer the door but shoo them away quickly? Listen to their spiel politely but tell them I’m not interested? Invite them in for a cuppa to hear what they have to say, you never know, I might save a buck or two?
It’s that latter option that unsolicited salespeople are hoping you’ll choose. That’s because unsolicited salespeople rely one hundred per cent on customers making snap decisions to sign up. Some snap decisions can be wonderful. And some, not so much. But one thing is certain: in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult for most of us to accurately weigh and assess the pros and cons of any new offer. Richard Branson can do it, but assuming we’re not him, what’s to be done when a salesperson offers you a seemingly enticing deal - a “free” inspection; a discount to have a job done today or a way to save money on your bill?
You really only have two choices
Firstly, when approached by a salesperson, don’t let your intellect trick you into thinking there are a million options. There aren’t - you really only have two choices – telling the salesperson you’re not interested, or listening to their sales pitch.
If you decide that you’re not interested, and tell the salesperson so, they must acquiesce and hang up or leave your door immediately. (Fine print: it is illegal for them to further “pitch to” or “harass” you, after you’ve declined their invitation to hear about the deal. Furthermore, a salesperson must not contact you again after you’ve declined their offer, for at least 30 days unless they return representing a different supplier.
If, on the other hand, you decide to wing it and listen to an unsolicited sales pitch, it is possible to make an informed, well-thought out decision. You don’t actually need to “wing” anything or fly by the seat of your Richard-Branson monogrammed pants, at all. It is absolutely possible to maintain control over the encounter and give yourself some thinking time before you sign up. Here’s how:
- When a door-to-door salesperson approaches, don’t allow the salesperson to enter your home. Use the front door as a physical barrier to ensure it’s easier to get the salesperson to leave your premises. You know how the saying “foot in the door” came about, right? Well, be sure to keep that uninvited foot out!
- Even if you live alone or make the decisions for your household, use the excuse that you need to talk with your partner or children to allow some thinking time prior to making your decision.
- Tell the salesperson you need to check their credentials before you can sign up. Collect their details and check that they are an authorised representative and/or a registered tradesperson.
- Ask the salesperson whether they have sold the same service or product in your local area, and if so, ask if they have a previous customer willing to speak to you with a testimonial about their previous work before making your decision.
- Ask for a copy of the sales, loan or credit contract that the salesperson wants you to sign. Explain that you need some time on your own to review it before can you sign up.
- If the salesperson states that their offer is valid for today only, ask that they return when they can next offer the same deal, explaining that you need time to compare prices.
Spending more than $100 gives you extra rights!
Now, something to note: if you do sign up from an unsolicited sales call and the value of the agreement is more than $100 (or the value was not able to be determined at the time the agreement was made), and if the negotiations took place at a location other than the supplier’s or salesperson’s premises, then you’ve entered into an “unsolicited agreement”.
All unsolicited agreements legally require you to be given a cooling-off period of 10 business days. During this time, you can cancel the contract without a fee or penalty, and the trader must not accept any payment from you, nor supply any goods or services.
If you do have issues with an unsolicited salesperson, you should contact the organisation they claim they’re representing, the relevant Ombudsman if applicable and the Office of Fair Trading or equivalent.
Things salespeople sayStay informed and watch out for the following throwaway comments, that a salesperson might say:
"I was just in the neighbourhood…"
Unless you have previously agreed, a salesperson is only allowed to visit you on:
- Weekdays – between 9am and 6pm
- Saturdays – between 9am and 5pm
Door-to-door salespeople are not allowed to make unsolicited visits on Sundays or Public Holidays.
"Pleased to meet you, can you guess my name?"
If a salesperson approaches you, they must:
- Explain the purpose of their visit and provide identification such as their name and place of employment.
- Explain that they are must leave your property immediately if you ask them to do so.
- Leave your property immediately if you ask them to do so.
- Inform you about your cooling-off rights.