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MONEY COMMENT
The Tricks Of Doorstep Sellers

By Jane Mack (TMFJane)
May 12, 2004

The Office of Fair Trading has called for changes to the law  following an investigation into doorstep selling techniques.

Although current legislation gives consumers a 7 day cooling-off period to cancel a contract, it only applies to those who are cold-called. The protection doesn't apply to consumers who asked for the visit and psychological research commissioned for the study has revealed that these consumers are just as vulnerable to high pressure selling tactics as those receiving unsolicited visits.

Doorstep selling is a 2.4 billion industry and at least 15,000 complaints a year are made to trading standards departments. Most respondents to the OFT's consumer survey said they felt buying in the home was more pressurised than other settings.

I can well believe it. If you've ever been faced with a doorstep seller you'll know that some of them are very good indeed at selling and it's not surprising that the OFT has highlighted certain tactics that consumers ought to watch out for. Do any of the following sound familiar...?

  • Trying to find out what you like and dislike so they can pretend they agree with you - it builds a rapport with you and you start to trust them. After all, you'd prefer to say yes to someone you like;
  • Offering you free samples, discounts and services in such a way that you begin to believe they're doing you a great favour;
  • Trying to make you think that you have only one chance to buy their product and if you don't take it up immediately you'll lose out;
  • Expressing deep disappointment if you say you don't want to buy thus making you feel guilty; and 
  • Persuading you that you'll be 'keeping up with the Joneses' if you buy. "Everyone else has got one"

Not surprisingly the OFT wants the government to extend the cooling-off period so it covers solicited visits as well as cold-calls. In the meantime, you now know what to watch out for when the double-glazing salesman calls!