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City Councils: Please Ban Door-to-Door Sales

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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6 Comments

  1. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on May 31, 2015 at 11:51 am

    I’ve never, ever bought anything from a door to door sales (except girl guide cookies) and I never will. A rep from Vivint visits the area about once per month and I no longer even answer the door. It’s invasive and rude to do a sales call during dinner time. The rep has asked to come in and explain the products (i.e. give a 60 minute sales pitch) – has anyone ever let any of these guys in? I’d imagine it would be very hard to get rid of them politely

    • Echo on May 31, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      I hear you, Dan. The reps are rude and they call on you all-too frequently. There has been some light burglary in our area (thieves checking unlocked car doors at night) and part of me wonders if it isn’t home alarm sales reps “prepping” the area before they start knocking on doors.

  2. Potato on May 31, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    And of course, never ever buy anything from a door-to-door salesperson or telemarketer if you actually want the practices to stop. Even if you liked the product/service and want it, call them later or go to a store to purchase and make no mention of the call/visit — as long as companies keep thinking it’s an effective way to sell, they’ll keep doing it.

    • Echo on June 1, 2015 at 7:32 am

      Great point, John! Direct selling is the most expensive form of selling and so if the practice becomes even slightly less effective then maybe home alarm and energy companies will think twice before they train and deploy dozens of agents into our communities.

      If only the dictionary and vacuum cleaner salespeople were less effective back in the day, we wouldn’t still be dealing with this practice!

  3. Tom on June 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Weird Echo, I was thinking the same thing about Vivint! We’ve lived in this same house for >3 years now with no real problems (just some random graffiti in the area once in a while) and then all of a sudden a month or so ago, attempted B&E’s started happening. Now we have a Vivint rep always walking around talking to everyone and knocking on doors, citing the increase in crime lately.

    One thing to be said, the first time this Vivint guy visited me he did not have a visible name tag. When I asked him, he did present it. However, once I told him to hold off everything until I called the toll-free number on their website to verify his badge, he left. I in no way think he was a fraud, but I’ve found its an easy way to get them to go away (they don’t want to stand there for 20+ minutes of you on hold just to verify their badge. Plus I’m sure they can tell waiting on hold for a time like that wouldn’t cause a very good perception of the company off-the-bat).

    It’s probably worth mentioning, Vivint hasn’t visited me since, and they still continue to knock on all the other doors.

  4. John on June 7, 2015 at 7:16 am

    While I agree with the intent of this, I think many fine services – real estate, being one – that would be negatively affected by any such bylaw. Unfortunately, a number of excellent sales reps of reputable companies are beefing tarnished by aggressive reps with shady offerings.

    We can’t tar all representatives with the same brush.

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