No homeowner appreciates unsolicited visits from companies selling door-to-door. In fact, a survey conducted by the Trading Standards Institute (U.K.) found that 96% of the 9,000 people questioned were opposed to uninvited door-to-door sellers.

As I write this, home alarm companies, such as Vivint, and energy companies, such as Just Energy and Direct Energy, have invaded our community with teams of door-to-door sellers in hopes of getting residents to sign-up or switch their contract over to their services.

Related: 4 big rip-offs to watch out for

And while it may be tempting to sign up for a home security system, or switch to a new energy supplier to save a few bucks, you should always be cautious about door-to-door sales pitches. They may use deceptive pitches or questionable tactics and sell substandard, but expensive products or service contracts. Once in place, these contracts are nearly impossible to break without hefty penalties and hours spent fighting with customer service.

Vivint

One Vivint representative came to my door and remarked on the rash of recent burglaries in the neighbourhood. He also bragged about signing up several of my neighbours, including an immigrant family down the street who didn’t really understand what he was selling but signed a contract anyway after the rep insisted everyone else in the neighbourhood was doing it.

Reputable businesses shouldn’t require your signature at the door. Take your time and read the documentation at your leisure. If the sales pitch has a limited time offer attached to it, ask the salesperson to leave immediately and close your door.

Direct Energy

A Direct Energy agent tried to convince my wife that our household was already using their service (we weren’t) and wanted to see a copy of our electricity bill to “make sure” we were getting the appropriate discount.

Shop around for competitive quotes from businesses offering similar services. Contact the Better Business Bureau to investigate the company or to get a list of businesses offering similar service.

Related: Free seminar – Learn how to get ripped off

Before you sign any contract, take the time to read the fine print. Don’t get pressured into signing a contract on the spot.

Just Energy

Ontario Energy Board issued a written notice to Just Energy related to allegations of non-compliance with the Ontario Energy Board Act. Better Business Bureau files indicate that Just Energy has a large volume and pattern of complaints concerning misleading sales practices. Consumer complaints allege that door-to-door sales persons are misleading consumers, providing false information and using high-pressure sales tactics. This company has been notified of these concerns but have failed to correct the underlying reason for the complaints.

Final thoughts

What can you do – short of hanging a “no-soliciting sign” on your door – to help curb door-to-door sales in your city?

Two communities in British Columbia – Port Coquitlam and Parksville – have passed by-laws banning door-to-door sales (with exceptions made to charities and bottle drives). The impetus for the by-law was born out of concern for their large elderly and immigrant populations, who are often the target of aggressive and misleading sales tactics used by companies who prey on the vulnerable.

Related: Extended warranties – Good deal, or cash grab?

Last week, as a concerned citizen and advocate for consumer protection, I wrote a letter to city council urging them to review this matter and take the necessary steps to ban door-to-door sales in our community. I encourage readers to do the same in your communities.


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