Not all products or services are bought in a shop or online. You may be offered goods or asked to sign up to services – such as gas, electricity, telephone or broadband – by salespeople calling to your home or at your place of work. Or you may attend a home party at which products like clothes or cosmetics are on offer. Sometimes tradespeople may call to your door offering to provide gardening, roofing, window cleaning or other services. In these situations, you may be tempted to take advantage of what you see as a good value deal. But what are your rights when you buy on the doorstep? Here is a rundown of the rights you can rely on when you make a purchase away from a trader’s business premises.
If I buy or sign up to something on the doorstep, do I have the same rights as I would if I bought the same item in a shop?
When you make a purchase – whether it is in a shop, online, on the telephone or away from a trader’s business premises, such as on the doorstep – the same consumer rights apply to the transaction. These rights are laid out in the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 and they stipulate that anything a consumer buys must be of merchantable (or saleable) quality, as described to the consumer, and fit for its intended purpose. If your purchase does not meet these criteria – e.g. because it is faulty – you are entitled to a repair, replacement or refund from the retailer.
What information should I be given before making a purchase on the doorstep?
As well as being able to rely on the same consumer rights as you would if you bought a product or a service on a trader’s premises, some additional rights apply when you buy off-premises, including door-to-door sales. These additional rights are outlined in the recently implemented Consumer Rights Directive and include the information the salesperson should provide you with before the transaction is completed. For on-premises transactions, a certain amount of information is already apparent to the consumer, such as the trader’s geographical address and identity. However, when a transaction takes place off-premises and the total cost exceeds €50, the following information must be provided to the consumer: details about the seller, including geographical address and phone number; a description of the goods or service and how long any commitment will last for the consumer (i.e. the duration of the contract); the total price of the goods or service and the cost of delivery; and details of the existence of any right to cancellation and how it can be exercised. All information provided must be clear and comprehensible. Off-premises contracts with a value of less than €50 are exempt from the regulations and off-premises contracts for repair or maintenance are only caught by the regulations when the cost is €200 or more.
Does this information have to be provided in writing?
The above information should be provided on paper unless you agree to receive it in other “durable mediums” – such as email – and you are entitled to confirmation of the contract. If the information was not initially provided in durable form, the seller must provide it when confirming the contract.
If I buy something on the doorstep and later have second thoughts, can I change my mind and obtain a refund or cancel the contract?
Compared to buying goods in a shop, when you make a purchase away from a trader’s premises, including on the doorstep, you have some additional rights with regard to being able to withdraw from a contract. When you buy an item in a shop, you are not entitled to a refund simply because you have changed your mind. However, when you buy off-premises the rules are similar to when you buy goods online and you have a 14-day “cooling-off period” in which you are entitled to change your mind about your purchase and can cancel your order for the goods or service. If the cost of the goods is €50 or more, then you should receive a written cancellation form and a cancellation notice to use in the event that you have a change of heart.
Are there any circumstances in which I would not be able to change my mind and avail of the 14-day cooling-off period?
Similar to the rules for buying online, you cannot change your mind about a doorstep purchase if the product has been in some way personalised or custom-made to your specifications or if you have asked for the service to commence immediately, e.g. where the trader is carrying out urgent repairs or maintenance.
Always take care when purchasing a product or service on the doorstep. Be sure of the identity of the seller by asking for photo ID and seek recommendations for tradespeople. Never feel pressurised into making a purchase and be sure that you really want or need the product or service and that it genuinely represents good value. Seek written material – such as an official and verifiable brochure with the full and detailed address, contact information, and registered company and VAT number – to help you make up your mind, and make sure you are provided with information about cancellation procedures.