Door-to-Door Sales

Door-to-door sales are common in many neighborhoods. A salesperson walks from one house to the next, ringing the doorbell and pitching a product to the person who answers.

What the Law Says

Certain door-to-door sales confer special rights on consumers as set out in the Texas Business & Commerce Code Chapter 601.  These laws apply whenever a merchant solicits sales at a place other than their place of business, you agree to buy from the merchant while at a place other than their place of business, and you are buying more than $25 worth of goods or services or buying more than $100 worth of real estate.

Certain types of sales will not be covered by these laws, including auto sales.

The 3-Day Right to Cancel

If your door-to-door transaction is covered by the rules described above, you have a right to cancel the sale within three business days.

In addition to your right to cancel these transactions, the merchant is required by law to provide you notice of your 3-day right to cancel. The merchant must do so by giving you a contract or receipt stating the date of the sale, the name and address of the merchant, and a statement of your right to cancel the contract including an address for sending your cancellation notice.

When the merchant provides a copy of the contract or receipt and the notice of your right to cancel, those documents must be in the same language as that principally used in the sales presentation. For example, if the buyer and the salesperson spoke in Spanish during the sale, the contract must be in Spanish.

Canceling a Door-to-Door Sale

If the salesperson provided you with the right forms, you can cancel the sale by signing the form titled "notice of cancellation," dating it, and mailing it back to the salesperson. To obtain a full refund, you must do this before midnight of the third business day after the sale. Keep a copy of the form.

Even if you miss the three-day deadline, your sale may be void if the salesperson failed to make certain disclosures or if certain other conditions are met. See Tex. Bus. & Comm. Code Ann., Sec. 601.201. But remember, under your 3-day right to cancel you must cancel in writing. Be sure to keep a copy of the contract and your letter notifying the seller of the cancellation.

After you cancel, the salesperson has ten business days to refund your money, cancel and return to you any negotiable instruments concerning the sale, and return any trade-in items. The salesperson must notify you within ten days whether they intend to retrieve the goods or abandon them. They may not require you to mail or ship the goods back in certain circumstances. In a sale affecting real property the seller must restore your property to its original condition if any "improvements" were made to it, unless you request otherwise. 

Be Alert for Scams and Rip-offs

When a person comes to your door selling something, the most important thing to remember is that you don't know who the person is or where you would be able to find them if the deal goes wrong.

Always ask for a physical address and for references, and then take time to check the information. Corporations in Texas are required to register with the Secretary of State; you can check with the Secretary of State’s office for a business’s physical address or the name of the registered agent of a business. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau.

If you buy from, or contract with, a reputable local business, you can always take the product back or dispute the work done. If you buy from a fly-by-night seller, chances are you'll never see them again. Don't put yourself in that position.

Don't be pushed into signing a contract or giving your money to a salesperson unless you're sure you want the product. Take time to think about it. You should consider doing some comparison shopping.

Remember your right to cancel: if your door-to-door transaction fits the rules set out above, you have three days to cancel. Keep your receipt or contract and a copy of the cancellation notice that should have been provided by the seller. You may need these documents if you seek legal help. When you cancel one of these sales, you should mail your notice by certified mail to prove you complied with the law.

Resist high-pressure sales tactics and pressure to "buy now." Shady door-to-door sales are common in the aftermath of emergencies precisely because so many people are desperate to repair leaky roofs and clear up dangerous debris. Slow down, take precautions, and don't fall prey to a door-to-door scam.