Not all knocks are the same, warns the Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB). Recent complaints of unlicensed direct sellers’ activity, often targeting seniors, has prompted FCNB to issue warnings about being approached via online channels and high-pressure sales tactics.
FCNB has received complaints from New Brunswicker’s who have alleged companies are using free consultations or offering free prizes or money off goods and services through social media as an avenue to get invited by New Brunswicker’s into their homes. The complainants allege that once in the home to provide the consultation or prize, the salespeople are using high pressure sales tactics to solicit sales.
“The Direct Sellers licence is the first step to protecting consumers by screening salespeople before they enter New Brunswickers’ homes,” shared Alaina Nicholson, Director of Consumer Affairs. “When a sale takes place in your home you may feel pressured into saying “yes”. Consumers need to be aware of high-pressure tactics that may put them at risk regardless of whether they have a licence or not. It can be costly to cancel a contract if a service has already been provided or a product has already been installed.”
While door-to-door sellers used to be common, FCNB is seeing more direct sellers’ activity being initiated through advertising gimmicks, such as “free” in-home consultations. There is also more of this activity being initiated through social media platforms.
FCNB wants to raise awareness of some high-pressure sales tactics that are circulating in the province. It has also provided tips on how to be a safe and informed consumer when dealing with direct sellers:
Beware of high-pressure or misleading sales tactics.
High-pressure tactics include:
- Saying it is a one-time offer only available now.
- Offering free inspections, consultations or offering prizes to visit your home, with the intent of soliciting a sale once there. Examples of inspections could be a free inspection of your furnace, home heating devices, for air quality or water testing, or for mold detection.
- Misleading you by implying that they work for your municipality, a provincial organization or a utility company.
- Misleading you by implying that the condition of your home or equipment in your home is dangerous or inadequate for habitation and requires an immediate fix or remediation. If concerns about your home or equipment in your home have been raised by a salesperson or company you are unfamiliar with, and with whom you don’t already have an ongoing trusted sales relationship, consider getting a second opinion before agreeing to purchase anything.
Review the contract.
Whenever you buy a product or service at your door, the seller must provide you with a contract. Be sure you understand its terms and conditions and are comfortable with what you are committing to BEFORE you sign. Understand how you are paying for the product. We have heard from some New Brunswicker’s who say they unknowingly entered into a financing agreement with high interest rates when they signed a contract. Reviewing a contract in detail becomes even more important if the sale involves a product installation in your home. Do not rush into the purchase because although you do have cancellation rights, removing an already installed product could still end up costing you money.
Know your cancellation rights.
New Brunswick consumers also have the right to cancel a direct sales contract for any reason within a 10-day cooling-off period. When you cancel, the seller has 15 days to give you your money back. Take this time to review the contract. And, as we noted above, be wary of quick product installation. If the product is installed prior to the expiration of the cooling-off period, you may still incur extra costs to have the product removed.
Do some research.
If you have personally never had dealings with the seller before, consider doing some research into the company and the product or services being offered before committing to the product or service. Ask for references from the company, talk to neighbours who have received the same products or services, search for online reviews and, call other contractors/service providers in a similar industry to see if the product or service they are providing is of a similar quality and price. Don’t be afraid to ask questions after you have done your research.
“We’re asking all New Brunswickers to share this information with the people in their communities,” said Nicholson. “There are New Brunswickers, including seniors and newcomers, that can be more isolated than others and may be less likely to be aware of the risks of door-to-door sales. Sharing safe consumer tips and trends will help protect our communities from fraudulent or high-pressure sales.”
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a door-to-door scam or been approached by an unlicensed direct seller either at your door or online, report it to FCNB.
FCNB has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca.