Get Gephardt: Utah man struggles to cancel door-to-door sale
CLINTON, Utah — When a door-to-door salesman knocked on Larry Shields’ door, he wasn’t really in the market for what the guy was selling, but he made a nice pitch.“It’s supposed to purify the air, humidify the air and it’s also a vacuum,” Shields said. Shields purchased on the spot, paying $3,745. But within a few hours, he had a change of heart. “We decided we didn’t want to keep it,” Shields said.
According to the paperwork, cancelling was his prerogative, but he needed to act quickly. The contract only gives him three days to cancel.
Shields says he called the salesman.“He said he had talked to his boss, they would cancel the sale and would come and pick the item up,” Shields said.
The contract specifically says that a cancellation letter or telegram needs to be sent, but Larry says the salesman said not to worry about it. Larry did get worried, so on day three he says he also emailed the company.
“I assumed that they were processing things,” Shields said.
But no one showed up to pick up the machine, the charges remained on his credit card, and the salesman stopped responding.
Shields reached out to the corporate offices again and was told that he didn’t follow the cancellation instructions as they were spelled out in the contract. Shields protested, he says, pointing out that he’s made multiple efforts to cancel before the deadline including sending an email.
“It is not considered valid,” Shields says he was told. “If I’d known who I was, what kind of company I was dealing with. I would have loaded it all in the car that day; called the salesman driven to Salt Lake and given it to him and the paperwork.”
Not sure where else to turn, Shields decided it was time to Get Gephardt.
As we began digging, we found that the three day right to change his mind isn’t something the company did to be nice. It’s the law.
A purchaser has the right to cancel a ‘direct solicitation’ that’s a legal term that basically means when a salesman calls you up or knocks on your door out of the blue, “within three business days of the time of purchase,” according to the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act.
As for the cumbersome ways this company told Shields he needed to cancel, sending a letter in the mail or a telegram, that’s the law too.
Federal rules that date back to the early 1970s, a time when people actually sent telegrams, spell out that door-to-door salesmen need to give the buyer a form that has that exact language: To cancel this transaction, mail or deliver a signed and dated copy of this Cancellation Notice or any other written notice, or send a telegram, to [Name of seller], at [address of seller’s place of business] NOT LATER THAN MIDNIGHT OF [date].”
The rules don’t say anything about emails or forbid a company from accepting them, or phone calls, to process cancellations.
Outdated law aside, where does this all leave Shields? Get Gephardt reached out to the company, Grand Valley Air, Inc on his behalf. That very same day the company responded, by email, writing, “Even though Larry did not follow the cancellation instructions, we have refunded his card.”If a company is not letting you cancel a direct solicitation within the cooling off period, as they are required by law, you can complaint to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and the Federal Trade Commission.
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