Door to door sales – what you should know

Selling door to door remains a popular way of trying to drum up business. Despite the explosion of internet sales, social media and email, talking face to face is still a popular way to sell.


As the Internet and social media help communities spread crime prevention advice, we are now inundated by messages about scams and confidence tricks. So who should we trust? When reading letters, email, or shopping online we have time in our own homes to decide who we trust, research our choices and make a decision. One of the reasons that door step selling works for retailers is that it puts residents in a position where they have to make a quick decision about a purchase.

So what’s the answer? Firstly, make the choice not to buy or sell anything on your door step. Most traders or sales persons will leave if you tell them this. You may need to resist the natural urge to be polite, and close the door as many sales persons will continue to talk despite your verbal refusal to buy or sell. If anyone makes any kind of attempt to enter your home without being invited or refuses to leave call 999 immediately and tell them “I am calling the Police”.

Cambridgeshire Trading Standards recommends that you should not buy on your doorstep; if you make the choice to allow people to sell to you it is important to consider who is knocking at your door:

Sales persons/ reps – who do not ask for money up front; but maybe looking to sign you up to a commitment such as a broad band package or an energy supplier. There should always be an opportunity to cancel a contract within 7 days in any circumstances. Most of the major energy and telecommunications companies do not employ people directly to sell door to do. Do not expect to see identification from agents working on behalf of other companies, our advice is not to engage with these people as there is no way to verify who they are. Some mobile phone companies have previously, allowed third parties to work door to door to sell their products without any formal identification or accreditation. There is no fast way of finding out who they are by calling, so again we are forced to recommend that you do not engage with them. Companies such as British gas will only dispatch a sales person to your house if you phone as ask for quote. This is a far safer way of knowing who you are talking to is genuine.

A hawker or pedlar – a salesperson who is selling door to door and requires immediate payment (often selling small items such as dusters etc). This is a licensed activity, and anyone doing this must have a licence and produce it to you. If the sales person cannot provide a licence to you, call 101 to report these persons and Police will attend and the pedlar could be prosecuted for not having the correct licence.

A rogue trader – someone (often known to the Police or trading standards) providing sub standard work or who tries to charge far in excess of the value of services they provide. They are often referred to as con-men. In general concerns should be reported to Cambridgeshire Trading Standards on 0845 404 0506, they will deal with any transaction over £35. These types of transaction require the trader to give you a 7 day cancellation period and a notice on how to cancel. If there is no 7 day notice provided then the trader could be prosecuted and the contract is unenforceable. If you feel a person is trying to “con” you by asking for money on the door step for work they have undertaken then call 999.

There are a number of reputable, honest and accredited door to door sales persons. For the elderly, infirm and vulnerable it is very difficult to say no for a number of reasons. No cold calling zones are set up by Trading Standards to empower residents to say no to doorstep sellers.

By far the best approach to take it not to buy or sell anything at the door step.

not buying

Further information: Led by the Citizens Advice Bureaux – find out more about protecting yourself from scammers, rogue traders and irresponsible lenders. Consumerhub is a partnership led by Cambridge CAB, working with Cambridgeshire Trading Standards and other organisations in the county to provide consumer advice and information to the county’s residents. We can also alert people to scams that are affecting local communities, to make sure that they are less likely to be exploited.

Another online resource is a government site which aims to put residents in contact with reputable traders.

Sgt Paul Rogerson