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Doorstep selling or cold calling refers to a salesperson making an unsolicited call for the first time at a person’s home to sell goods or services face-to-face. Complaints tend to focus on the unscrupulous tactics used by some doorstep salesmen, resulting in people being pressured into buying goods or services they did not want.

In the UK, there is no law to prevent doorstep selling. However, all traders must comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3134) (known as ‘the consumer Contracts Regulations’). Under the Regulations, traders must include certain terms in consumer contracts and provide pre-contract information for in-store, distance, and off-premises contracts for goods and services. The Regulations set out what information must be provided and when. They also provide rules governing delivery and in distance contracts give consumers a right to cancel the contract within 14 days. The Regulations, which came into force on the 13 June 2014, are enforced by local authority Trading Standards services.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 replace both the Doorstep Selling Regulations (the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 No. 1816)) and the Distance Selling Regulations (the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No. 2334)).

It is important to note that the Consumer Contracts Regulations only impact on contracts between “traders” and “consumers”, so it is important to check the identity of the parties involved. A consumer is defined as an individual person, acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly personal – so beyond the remit of that individual’s business, trade craft or profession. As the requirement is for an individual to be acting “wholly or mainly” outside their trade, a consumer may still receive protection if there is a mixture of business and personal (much would depend on the facts).

A local community might also set-up its own ‘No cold calling zone’. This is where residents work with Trading Standards officers and the police to stop uninvited salespeople from calling at homes in a designated street or area.

This briefing paper provides an outline of the key provisions of the Consumer Contracts Regulations. It also provides information on how ‘No cold calling zones’ work in practice.

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