Telemarketers and door-to-door sales

What can you do to discourage unwanted telephone and door-to-door sales?
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01.Unsolicited consumer agreements

A dodgy salesperson

We've all had the experience: you’re at home and the phone rings. It’s a salesperson with a strong desire to sell you something right now and with an almost bulletproof ability to withstand polite refusals. Or there is a knock on the door and you open it to find the world’s pushiest salesperson with the world’s best product to sell you. 

Or how about those people who want to have an over-friendly chat and sell you something in the middle of a shopping centre or (more creepily) in dingy shopping centre car parks?

The Do Not Call register and the Do Not Knock stickers have worked well to weed out many nuisance calls and stop a lot of door-knocking, but there are still some people who manage to find their way to your phone number or your front door. We've heard stories of some very persistent tree loppers. And the Do Not Call and Do Not Knock safeguards won’t help you in the shopping centre situation. So what can you do?

What is an unsolicited consumer agreement anyway?

Door-to-door sales, telemarketing sales and other direct sales that don’t take place in a retail setting are called unsolicited consumer agreements. Under the Australian Consumer Law, consumer protections apply to unsolicited consumer agreements, which happen when:

  • they are the result of negotiations which take place over the phone or at a location which is not the seller’s place of business, like your front door or the shopping centre car park;
  • a seller or their sales agent approaches you or phones you uninvited; and
  • the total value is more than $100 (or the value can’t be determined when the offer is made).

Most of the time these unsolicited consumer agreements arise from telemarketing, door to door selling or when you are approached by a salesperson in a shopping centre.  But there are other occasions where they might arise. For example, you fill in a competition entry and the seller contacts you to sell you another product or service. Or you return a missed call from an unknown phone number and a salesperson then sells you something.


There are some exceptions to the laws about unsolicited consumer agreements. For example:

  • donations to charity, where there is no sale involved;
  • business contracts for goods or services which are not usually for personal, domestic or household use;
  • renewal of an existing sales agreement like a telephone service; and
  • party plan sales (such as for well-known plastic storage containers or books or kitchen appliances) where the host makes it clear that you are invited to the party and might be sold something and at least three people are invited.

A sale which is made at a stall or a kiosk set up in a shopping centre won't be an unsolicited consumer agreement if the stall is the place where the seller has their business and the salesperson remains within the stall and doesn't follow you around the shopping centre.

If someone wants to sell you something that falls under the definition of an unsolicited consumer agreement, there are certain rules they must follow:

Sales agents can only knock or phone at certain times and days

Unless you have agreed beforehand, sales agents are not allowed to knock on your door

  • on a Sunday or a public holiday
  • before 9am or after 6pm on a weekday
  • before 9am or after 5pm on a Saturday.
Telemarketers are not allowed to call you 
  • on a Sunday or public holiday
  • before 9am or after 8pm on a weekday
  • before 9am or after 5pm on a Saturday.

Sales agents must give ID

Door-to-door sales agents should show you some identification and tell you why they are there and what they want to sell. The ID should include their name and the organisation they represent and contact details of the organisation. Similarly, telemarketers should start their call by telling you their name, the organisation they represent and its contact details and the purpose of the telephone call. 

Sales agents must leave if you ask them to

Sales agents must tell you that you can ask them to leave. If you do ask an agent to leave, they must leave immediately. 

If you ask a sales agent to leave, they are not allowed to contact you on behalf of the same seller for at least 30 days. But some sales agents act on behalf of a few different companies, so they might contact you again on behalf of a different company. 

It’s a bit easier on the phone, because you can always hang up on the telemarketer if you don’t want to speak with them. But if they keep calling you and you keep asking them to stop, that’s annoying. You can contact the business and ask them not to phone you any more, or the best way to stop unwanted calls is to register on the Do Not Call Register.

  • See the Checkout TV series' humorous take on the issue, below.

Read on to find out about your rights when it comes to unsolicited agreements.



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