* This is a translation of “New rules protect consumers in door-to-door sales” published in May 2018, produced in English by CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario). Japanese Social Services is wholly responsible for the accuracy of this translation, produced with permission of CLEO.
As of March 1, businesses selling certain products or services can’t phone people or come to their homes without being invited.
This month’s On the Radar explains these new rules and reviews the existing rules that apply to most types of door-to-door sales.
What can no longer be sold door-to-door
The new rules say that unless they’re invited, salespeople can’t phone or come to someone’s home to sell:
- air conditioners, cleaners, and purifiers
- water heaters
- water treatment devices including water softeners, purifiers, and filters
- duct cleaning services
The new rules also apply to any products or services that do the same job as any of the items listed above.
Things on the list above can be sold at a customer’s home if one of these two exceptions applies:
1. The customer made the first contact and invited the seller to their home to sell one of the things on the list.
2. All of the following are true:
- The customer already has a contract with a company for one of the products or services on the list.
- They invited the company to their home.
- Before coming to the customer’s home, the company asked if they could offer the customer a new contract, and the customer said yes.
But if the company left advertising with false information at the customer’s home, the exceptions do not apply.
If either exception does apply, the company can sell at the customer’s home if they follow certain rules:
- The written contract must have a special cover page that explains some of the customer’s rights.
- Starting on May 1, the contract must have certain detailed information that’s different from contracts for other goods and services.
Buyers don’t have to pay
Other than the exceptions, if a customer signs a contract at home for a product or service listed above, the contract is not valid.
This means that the customer does not have to pay anything. And they’re not responsible for returning the product or taking care of it.
If the customer has already paid, they can demand their money back within one year after signing.
General rules for door-to-door sales
There are also general rules that protect people when they buy products or services worth more than $50 from a salesperson who comes to their home.
These rules also apply when meeting with a salesperson anywhere except:
- their store or other regular place of business, or
- a market, exhibition, auction, or fair.
The seller must always give the customer a written contract that has certain information. If they don’t do this, the customer can cancel the agreement any time within one year of signing it.
There’s information that must be in contracts that cover the products and services listed at the beginning. And there’s different information for other door-to-door contracts.
The customer can cancel within 10 days after being given a copy of the contract. They don’t need a reason.
The customer can cancel the agreement if the seller is more than 30 days late and still hasn’t delivered the goods or started the services.
If the customer cancels in any of the situations above, the seller must refund their money within 15 days. And if the seller wants the product back they must pick it up or pay the cost to return it.
Any customer can cancel a contract if the seller used “unfair practices”. This applies to door-to-door sales and to selling online, in stores, or almost anywhere else.
Unfair practices include:
- telling the customer something that’s not true
- taking unfair advantage of customers who can’t protect themselves
The Consumer Protection Act lists over two dozen types of unfair practices.
How to complain
If the customer does not get a reply or a refund within the time allowed, or isn’t satisfied with the reply, they can complain to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
The Ministry has an online complaint form, as well as one that can be downloaded and printed out.
The customer can also sue the seller in court. For example, they can sue for up to $25,000 in Small Claims Court.
It’s best to get legal help to do this.
Different rules for energy retailers
Energy retailers are companies that offer contracts for electricity or natural gas. They sometimes go door-to-door or phone people at home. Energy retailers are covered by completely different rules than what we’ve talked about in this On the Radar.
For information about these rules and what people can do if they have problems with energy retailers, see the Ontario Energy Board website.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.