We’ve all been there. You’re watching television, busy cleaning, or about to sit down with the family for dinner and the doorbell rings.
You peer out the window, don’t recognize the person on the other side, and cautiously open the door.
Maybe it’s someone selling a product that you need. Great!
It could also be someone, sometimes called a “storm scammer”, trying to persuade you into paying them for home repairs that they have no intention of completing. Not so great.
Either way, when someone comes to your home offering services, it can catch you off guard and make you feel pressured to make a decision. In this type of situation, it’s important to know your rights, as they are different from when you visit a store or shop online.
Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act protects consumers from high pressure door-to-door sales by giving them a three-day “cooling-off” period during which the contract can be cancelled. After signing the agreement, the consumer has until midnight of the third business day to cancel. Info from ohioattorneygeneral.com offers additional insight below:
What is a home solicitation sale?
For the purposes of this law, a home solicitation sale is a sale of $25 or more in which the seller makes an in-person solicitation at the consumer’s home and the agreement is made at the consumer’s home. It also applies to sales made outside a seller’s normal place of business, such as a fair booth or hotel meeting room. Additionally, the law applies when the seller invites an in-person solicitation (such as a flyer encouraging consumers to schedule a home visit from a roof repair company) and then makes the agreement at the consumer’s home.
What does Ohio law require of door-to-door sales?
Under the Home Solicitation Sales Act, a seller must:
- Give the consumer a copy of the signed written agreement, including the date, the seller’s name, the seller’s address, and essentially the same language used in the verbal sales presentation.
- Provide a notice of cancellation form notifying consumers of their right to cancel. For more information, see ORC 1345.23.
- Accept the consumer’s right to cancel the sale, for any reason, within three business days of the sale.
- Not begin any service or sell any loan agreement the consumer signed until the three-day cooling-off period has ended.
What happens if a consumer cancels a door-to-door sale?
If a consumer cancels a home solicitation sale, the seller must provide a refund to the consumer within 10 days of receiving the consumer’s cancellation notice. If any goods were left at the consumer’s home, the consumer must make those goods available to the seller, who must arrange to pick them up.
Some cities and municipalities may require door-to-door solicitors to be registered. Sellers should check with the appropriate city or municipality in which they intend to solicit.
Door-to-door sales overview:
- In door-to-door sales of $25 or more, sellers must give consumers three days to cancel.
- The seller must provide a written agreement and written cancellation notice.
- The seller may not begin services until after the three-day cancellation period ends.
- If the consumer cancels, the seller must provide a refund within 10 days.
Protecting yourself from storm scammers
On November 5, 2017 alone, at least seventeen tornadoes touched down in Ohio, according to the National Weather Service, causing damage to dozens of homes.
When your home has suffered damages from a weather-related incident, you may be eager to get it back together again. But storm scammers are also eager to take advantage of individuals in a vulnerable state of mind.
While it’s hard not to accept help when it appears to be at your doorstep, knowing how to protect yourself from storm-related scams is a must.
OII member, Farmers Insurance, says to be wary if the individual:
- Is driving an unmarked vehicle.
- Can only provide a phone number or P.O. Box, not a physical business address.
- Uses high-pressure sales tactics (“I can only give you this deal today.”)
- Uses fear tactics (“You may have lifelong respiratory problems if you don’t deal with this now.”)
Storm scammers may also try to confuse you by stating that they are with your insurance provider, or even a government official. Remember that government officials must carry proper identification with their name and photograph. If the person is claiming to being sent by your insurance provider, be sure to check in with your agent or provider for verification.
While some individuals offering services shouldn’t be trusted, not all have bad intentions. If you’re considering accepting an offer, be sure to take some precautionary tips like the ones below from State Farm Insurance to protect yourself from fraud:
- Get multiple quotes from local established businesses.
- Take time to make your decision.
- Do your research. Look into professional affiliations and Better Business Bureau reports, and follow up on references from previous clients.
- Check for up-to-date licenses, and verify insurance protection.
- Insist on written estimates and a contract that includes contact information, important dates, and a breakdown of costs.
After the damages occur and before hiring a contractor, be sure to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the claim. If you suspect fraud, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance Fraud and Enforcement Division at 800-686-1527 or the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Cases will be referred to the proper law enforcement agency in your area.
- Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act, starting at Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 1345.21
- OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov: Door-to-Door Sales
- Farmers Insurance (@WeAreFarmers): Snap a selfie with your contractor and other post-disaster recovery tips
- State Farm (@StateFarm): Do these contractor practices seem shady? They are.