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What is a doorstep sale?

If you buy something or sign up to something in your home, someone else’s home or your place of work, this is called a doorstep sale.

When you buy in this way, you may get an extra right to cancel the contract if you change your mind.  

It's helpful to know if you've got this extra right because you may feel you've been pressured into buying something you don't need or realise later you can buy it cheaper elsewhere.

Read this page to find out more about doorstep sales and when you may get the extra right to cancel your contract.

Top tips

Cold callers

If you want to deter doorstep sellers, you can have a ‘no cold calling’ sticker put near your front door. If a trader ignores this, it could be a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations 2008. If a trader keeps ignoring your sticker you can report them to Trading Standards.

Examples of things you buy in doorstep sales

Examples of things you often buy in a doorstep sale include:

  • double glazing
  • burglar alarms
  • equipment to help disabled people
  • gardening services
  • repairs to your house (for example roof repairs)
  • gas or electricity supplies
  • items bought from home parties - for example jewellery or clothes.

Your right to cancel a doorstep sale

If you’ve bought something in a doorstep sale that cost more than £35, you usually get an extra period of time to cancel the sale in case you want to change your mind. This is called a cooling-off period.

The trader must give you a written notice telling you about your right to cancel, which must say certain things. The cooling-off period lasts for seven days from the day you get the cancellation notice.

Places where doorstep sales can take place

Doorstep sales are not just when you buy something in your home or work – they can take place in other situations. A doorstep sale can also be:

  • in someone else's home – for example you go to a 'jewellery' or 'underwear' party at a friends' house
  • at a sales event or campaign (known as an excursion) organised by the trader away from the place where they normally do business – for example a hotel room they've hired on a temporary basis.

Excursions

The law is unclear about exactly what counts as an ‘excursion’. A couple of examples that might be considered to be an excursion are:

  • where a trader has a temporary stand in another trader's shop – but not if it's a permanent outlet
  • events in hotel rooms – especially where you were unaware that you were going to be sold something
  • a marketing campaign where someone approaches you in the street and offers to sell you something or gets you to sign up for a service.

What if I make an appointment over the phone?

If you make an appointment for someone to call at your home or workplace over the phone and then sign up for something at home or work, this is a doorstep sale.

If you buy something over the phone without someone calling at your home or workplace, this is another type of sale called a distance sale. Distance sales also give you extra rights to cancel, but these are slightly different from doorstep sales.

Illegal doorstep traders

Some doorstep traders are acting illegally and you should watch out for this. It is illegal for a doorstep trader to trick or pressurise you into buying or signing up for something. You can report doorstep traders who are acting illegally to Trading Standards.

Next steps

  • To find out more about your rights to cancel when you buy something in a doorstep sale, and some situations when you don’t get the cancellation rights, see Doorstep sales – when you can cancel

Citizens Advice

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