Buying Something While You Are At Home Or On The Phone

There are laws to protect you from salesmen who show up at your door or who call you on the phone.  The main reasons for these extra protections is that people who allow salesmen to come into their homes are more at-risk.   If you are at home, you could be pressured into buying the product (if you are in a store and getting pressured, you could just walk away).  Also, if you buy something from your house, it might not be so easy to return it, if something went wrong. 

This shows why it is so important to be extra careful if you are buying something on the phone; if you let a door-to-door salesman into your home; or if you answer that ad on TV that tells you that you have to ‘Call NOW to take advantage of a sale that will end today’. 

Whatever the reason, the most important of these extra protections is the ‘Cooling Off Period’ that the Law has created to help people who buy stuff, while they are at home.   The Cooling Off Period means that after you buy something, you have three days to back out.  If you tell the seller within three days that you want to cancel the sale, the law says that they have to listen to you and return your money – no questions asked.   This ‘Right to Cancel’ doesn’t apply for everything that you buy.  But, almost every time that you are at home when you make the purchase, the Right to Cancel is created.  (The Right to Cancel can also exist if you make the purchase somewhere besides your house, if the first contact that the seller had with you was while you were at home and watching an ad that asked you to call them) 

But, remember, the cooling off period does not give you three days to decide whether you want to buy something – it gives you three days to decide whether you want to cancel a purchase that you have already made and return the thing that you bought.  If you are unsure about buying something for ANY REASON (the salesman is pressuring you…you think that maybe you don’t want to go through with it…something just feels funny about the sale….the claims that the salesman is making about the item seem just too good) the best thing to do is to say ‘No thank you’, sleep on it and decide tomorrow whether you actually want to buy the item. 

If you have any questions about this (or any other) issue; or would like to speak with a counselor, please send an e-mail to [email protected] .  We will put you in touch with a counselor and help you the best way we can!

What Is A “Cooling Off Period” And When Do I Get One?

The ‘Cooling Off Period’ is extra time that the law gives you to decide whether you want to go through with a purchase that you made.  In Ohio, this period lasts for three-days and it applies almost every time you buy something, while you are at home.  When you buy something from your house (such as from a door-to-door salesman, from ANY salesman that comes to your house) you have the right to cancel the contract, if you tell the seller within three days.  The cooling off period also applies to things that you buy on the phone.  It applies if they called you – (or even if you called them, because of an ad that you saw with their phone number)

If you leave your house to buy something, you might get the three-day cooling off period.  But, three things have to happen for the purchase that you make somewhere other than your house in order to give you the three-day cooling off period:

  • The first contact that you had with the seller was while you were at home; AND
  • That contact was caused by the seller (for instance: THEY put an advertisement in the paper, on the radio or on TV; or THEY called you on the phone); AND
  • The seller does not have what is called a ‘fixed place of business’ in Ohio (for instance: they are selling their stuff from a hotel, a trade show or some other temporary place)

Remember: All three of these things have to happen for you to get the Three-day Cooling off period.

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If There Is A “Cooling Off Period”, How Does It Help?

If the Cooling-Off period applies, the seller has to give you two copies of what is called the ‘Notice of Right to Cancel’.  The law says that it should be clear to you (just from looking at the notice) what it is and what you have to do to cancel the sale.  It should have the words ‘NOTICE OF RIGHT TO CANCEL’ written across the top in big bold letters.  It should also have the address where you should send it, if you want to cancel the sale and the latest date that you should put it in the mail.  But, don’t worry, since you only have three days, the law says that all you have to do is mail it within three days.  They don’t have to get it within those three days. The only thing that you have to show is that you put it in the mail, before the three days ended.  That is why, when the seller gives you the ‘Notice of Right to Cancel’, they have to give you two copies.  One to mail and one to keep for yourself.  

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How Do I Cancel The Sale?

If you want to cancel a sale and there is a ‘Cooling off period’, you should mail the ‘Notice of Right to Cancel’ before the three-day period ends. (The Notice, itself, will tell you the last day you have to put the Notice in the mail)  When you mail the Notice to the seller, it should be by ‘Certified Mail – Return Receipt Requested’.  This is usually less than Five Dollars. But, it is the only way that you can show that you actually sent the Notice of Right to Cancel to the seller.  Once you have mailed the letter, put your copy of the letter and the receipt that you get from the Post Office in a safe place.

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Phrases That Should Scare You When You Buy Stuff At Home

If you are at home and hear any one of these phrases come out of the salesperson’s mouth, you should hang up; shut the door; call for help; ask them to leave; or do whatever you can to get out of that situation: 

  • “You need to decide right now, our prices are going up tomorrow.”
  • “You can ‘waive’ your right to cancel in order to make the deal go faster…..
  • “You don’t need the notice of right to cancel……..just calls us if you don’t want to go through with it. We trust you!”
  • “You ‘don’t need’ a written contract.  We both know what the deal is”; or
  • “We can keep the price down, because we don’t use written contracts.”

If you try to cancel the sale after the salesman has left your house and somebody (either the salesman or somebody else who works there there) tells you “Oh, you can’t cancel, we already left the goods there,” or “OK, you can cancel, but it’ll cost you money because we have to come pick it up,” they are lying!  The law says that you are allowed to cancel without paying anything.  If somebody uses either of these lines on you, tell them that you are cancelling anyway.

One of the main purposes of the Cooling Off Period is to give you time to decide whether you really want to go through with the sale.  But, it is very important to remember that the easiest way to keep from buying the wrong thing is to wait another day before going through with it.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a purchase.

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Answer The Phone… But Be Careful!

Before the internet, it wasn’t so easy to get information about people that you didn’t know. Now, however, it is as easy as pie to find out a whole lot about someone, right before you call them on the phone and try to scam them out of money.  It is not uncommon to get a phone call from somebody who sounds like they are on the up-and-up, only to realize after you have given them your credit card number or your checking account number that they weren’t really who they said they were.  What’s more – there is usually no way for you to call them back, or get the money you lost. 

What are the rules that you should follow, when you answer the phone to make sure that you don’t get ripped off?  Here are a few DON’Ts for when you answer the phone:

  • DON’T give any information to somebody who called you first.  If they called you out-of-the-blue they could be anybody or anywhere.
  • DON’T do business with anybody, until they give you their physical address, name, and  website information.  Ask them for their number, so you can call them back. If they hesitate to give you their number, there’s something wrong!
  • DON’T buy anything from (or give any money to) somebody who had their ‘Caller ID’ blocked.  If you have ‘Caller ID’ and the number of the person calling you doesn’t show up on your phone – Hang up!  If your ‘Caller ID’ doesn’t identify the caller, it is because the person calling you has disabled the ‘Caller ID’.  Companies who are not trying to rip you off don’t disable their ‘Caller ID’. 
  • DON’T let anybody pressure you into buying something over the phone.  If you can’t sleep on it, don’t buy it!

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The “Do Not Call List”

Have you ever sat down to dinner and had the phone ring while the fork is on the way to your mouth?  Most times, it’s not someone you know.  Instead, it’s some salesman calling to try to sell you something.  There’s a way that you can cut way down on the amount of phone calls that interrupt your meal.  The Federal Government has created a list that will stop people from calling you.  It’s called the ‘Do Not Call’ list.  It’s FREE and it counts for cell phones AND land-lines. (The Federal website is www.donotcall.gov .  (If you want to register for the Do Not Call list and you go to a website that does not end in ‘dot-gov’, you are at the wrong place!)

While it might not stop every call that you get, it’ll help a lot.  That’s because, once you are on the ‘Do Not Call’ list, any company that calls you must be:

  • Someone who has a ‘prior business relationship’ with you (like your bank, your credit card company, or some other place that you already do business with);
  • From a non-profit agency;
  • Not trying to sell you something;
  • From someone you have given written permission to call you.

How can you tell that most calls will stop? Because, if someone calls you (and you are on the ‘Do Not Call’ list, the Attorney General (or you) can sue them.  Here’s the link to the Federal Website where you can sign up:

  • [the link I have doesn’t work…I’ll have to wait a few days to see if it does, then]
  • You can also call and register your number by phone: 1-888-382-1222

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Protect Yourself

  • Hesitate… don’t decide during the first conversation you have with any salesman.  Take a night or two to think about it and ask around
  • Ask to see the ‘Three-Day Right to Cancel.’  This is required for nearly every sale that takes place at your house.
  • When you are getting work done on your house, try to only use companies that have offices or storefronts.  These folks are more likely to stick around and less likely to try to rip you off.
 

What’s the law?

The Home Solicitation Sales Act, which is in the Ohio Revised Code and can be found on the web at: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1345 (sections 1345.21 – .28) covers any home repairs where you sign up for (or buy) the repairs, while you are at home; and it gives you three days to cancel the contract.