02.What are my rights if I buy something?
If you do want to go ahead and buy something worth more than $100 from a door-to-door sales agent or telemarketer or one of those people who wander around shopping centres, there are requirements they must follow.
Before you sign or agree to anything, the salesperson must tell you that you have the right to terminate the agreement if you change your mind.
You must be given a copy of the agreement immediately (if its a door-to-door or shopping centre sale) or within five days if its a telephone sale.
The agreement must:
- be clearly printed or typed (apart from handwritten amendments);
- be in clear and understandable language;
- set out all the terms in full;
- set out the total cost to you including GST, or it must clearly set out how the cost will be calculated;
- state the delivery charges;
- include the sales agent’s name and contact details;
- set out the supplier’s name, ABN or ACN, address, email address and fax number;
- be signed by you and by the agent;
- come with a notice that you can use to cancel the agreement; and
- its first page must include a notice which very clearly informs you about your rights to cancel the agreement.
Cancelling the agreement in the cooling-off period
The first page of any unsolicited consumer agreement must include a very clear notice which tells consumers that they have a right to cancel the agreement within 10 business days. This is called a cooling-off period. The sales agent must also tell you about your right to a cooling-off period before you sign the agreement.
If you decide during the cooling-off period that the agreement is not what you want, you can cancel the agreement with no penalty.
The cooling-off period starts on the first business day after you sign, or on the first business day after you receive the agreement if it was negotiated over the phone.
The cooling-off period can be extended to three months if the sales agent did any of the following:
- contacted you outside the permitted hours for door to door sales, without your prior permission;
- did not tell you their identity or why they were visiting you; or
- did not leave when you asked them to leave.
The cooling-off period can be extended to six months if the sales agent did any of the following:
- did not tell you about the cooling-off period;
- did not give you a copy of the agreement;
- gave you an agreement which did not have all the required information contained in it;
- did not sign and/or have you sign a copy of the agreement;
- started supplying goods worth $500 or more within the 10-day cooling-off period (but they can supply goods worth less than $500);
- started supplying services within the 10-day cooling-off period (not including new gas or electricity supply); or
- accepted or demanded payment for goods or services during the 10 day cooling off period (not including for new gas or electricity supply).
How to cancel in the cooling-off period
You can cancel the agreement during the cooling-off period verbally or in writing. If you cancel verbally it's a good idea to make a note of the conversation, including the date and time, who you spoke with, and briefly what was said.
If you want to cancel in writing you can post, email, fax or hand deliver a written notice to the supplier. If you post it, the supplier is deemed to have been handed it on the date you posted it. Keep a copy of the postage receipt so you can prove the date it was posted.
The cancellation notice does not have to be in any specific form. But it’s a good idea to include the following information:
- supplier’s name and contact details;
- information about the goods or services and the cost;
- date of agreement;
- your name and contact details;
- a statement that you wish to cancel the agreement;
- your signature and the date.
You should return any goods to the supplier or arrange for them to be collected. If the supplier does not collect the goods within 30 days, they become your property. You should take reasonable care of the goods as the supplier could possibly seek compensation if you damage them. However, you won’t have to pay compensation for normal wear and tear or any damage which was outside your control.
Door-to-door sales by energy companies are not only governed by the Australian Consumer Law, they are also subject to special protections under the National Energy Retail Law. For more information on consumer rights when it comes to energy sales see our report on Energy retailers' marketing practices.
Read on for more information about Do Not Knock and Do Not Call.