The Decline of Door-to-Door Sales – Changes to the Ontario Consumer Protection Act
Most of us have experienced this situation, we are sitting down to dinner or are getting ready to watch something on Netflix and the doorbell rings. We begrudgingly pull ourselves up out of our seat, answer the door and much to our chagrin it’s a door-to-door salesperson touting the “latest and greatest” water heater, furnace, air conditioner and the list goes on. Although the majority of salespeople are honest and forthcoming, some do attempt to get you to make a hasty decision right then and there. They may do so by applying pressure tactics, providing misleading information about products or services, or advising that “the offer is only good today”. And often, if you do get caught up in the sales pitch and sign the contract, upon reading the fine print you see that it can be difficult to cancel or have administrative costs and penalties associated with cancelling.
This is about to change. On March 1, 2018, the Ontario Consumer Protection Act was amended so that unless a consumer initiates contact by inviting a salesperson to their home (e.g., by email or phone), certain types of products and services can no longer be offered or sold at a consumer’s home. Those include: furnaces, air conditioners, air cleaners, air purifiers, water heaters, water treatment devices, water purifiers, water filters, water softeners, duct cleaning services, or any product or services that performs one or more of the previously listed functions. These changes do not only affect the classic door to door salesperson; they also affect businesses who visit consumers’ homes for repairs and maintenance.
For example, while at a home for repair job, a salesperson would be prohibited from contracting with a consumer for the restricted products and services. They could, however, leave promotional or marketing materials. Like any good rule there are exceptions; including if a salesperson already has a current contract in place and schedules a visit to renew the contract. Any contract entered into during such a visit would be subject to a 10 day “cooling-off” period, during which the consumer can cancel the contract without penalty.
The amendments to the law also include new record-keeping requirements for businesses and changes to disclosure requirements and the form of contract they must use with consumers.
Selling door-to-door generally does not give consumers the requisite time to research the product or service that is being offered, especially given that they are often big ticket items requiring a substantial financial commitment. These recent changes to Ontario’s consumer protection laws serve to supplement the current rules in place to aid consumers in making smart purchase decisions. The Ontario government has also created a website which sets out the details of the law and provides tips to consumers on how to handle door-to-door salespersons.