SAINT JOHN (GNB) – Not all knocks are the same, is the warning to New Brunswickers following recent complaints to the Financial and Consumer Services Commission about high-pressure sales tactics, sometimes within their own homes.

The complaints of activity by unlicensed direct sellers, often targeting seniors, has prompted the commission to issue warnings about being approached via online channels and about high-pressure sales tactics.

“The Direct Sellers licence is the first step to protecting consumers by screening salespeople before they enter private homes,” said Alaina Nicholson, director of consumer affairs at the commission. “When a sales presentation takes place in your home you may feel pressured into saying “yes”. Consumers need to be aware of high-pressure tactics that may put them at risk regardless of whether the seller has a licence or not. It can be costly to cancel a contract if a service has already been provided or a product has already been installed.”

The commission has received complaints that some companies are using free consultations or offering free prizes or money off goods and services through social media as an avenue to get invited into homes. Once in the home to provide the consultation or prize, the complaints say the salespeople are using high-pressure tactics.

While selling door-to-door used to be common, the commission is seeing more activity by direct sellers being initiated through advertising gimmicks such as “free” in-home consultations. There is also more of this activity being initiated through social media platforms.

The following are some tips when dealing with direct sellers:

Beware of high-pressure or misleading sales tactics such as:

  • Saying it is a one-time offer only available now.
  • Offering free inspections, consultations or offering prizes to visit your home, with the intent of soliciting a sale once there. Examples of inspections could include of your furnace, home heating devices, or for air quality or water testing, or for mold detection.
  • Misleading you by implying that they work for your municipality, a provincial organization or a utility company.
  • Misleading you by implying that the condition of your home or equipment in your home is dangerous or inadequate for habitation and requires an immediate fix or remediation. If concerns about your home or equipment in your home have been raised by a salesperson or company with whom you do not already have an ongoing trusted sales relationship, consider getting a second opinion before agreeing to purchase anything.

Review the contract.

Whenever you buy a product or service at your door, the seller must provide you with a contract. Be sure you understand its terms and conditions and are comfortable with what you are committing to before you sign. Understand how you are paying for the product.

Some New Brunswicker’s have told the commission they unknowingly entered into a financing agreement with high interest rates when they signed a contract. Reviewing a contract in detail becomes even more important if the sale involves a product installation in your home. Do not rush into the purchase because although you do have cancellation rights, removing an already installed product could still end up costing you money.

Know your cancellation rights.

New Brunswick consumers have the right to cancel a direct sales contract for any reason within a 10-day cooling-off period. When you cancel, the seller has 15 days to give you your money back. Take this time to review the contract. Be wary of quick product installation. If the product is installed prior to the expiration of the cooling-off period, you may still incur extra costs to have the product removed.

Do some research.

If you have never had dealings with the seller before, consider doing some research into the company and the product or services being offered. Ask for references from the company, talk to neighbours who have received the same products or services, search for online reviews and call other contractors/service providers in a similar industry to see if they offer a similar quality and price. Do not be afraid to ask questions after you have done your research.

“We are asking all New Brunswickers to share this information with the people in their communities,” said Nicholson. “There are New Brunswickers, including seniors and newcomers, that can be more isolated than others and may be less likely to be aware of the risks of door-to-door sales. Sharing safe consumer tips and trends will help protect our communities from fraudulent or high-pressure sales.”

Anyone who has been the victim of a door-to-door scam or been approached by an unlicensed direct seller either at their door or online, are asked to report it to the commission.

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation that regulates the following sectors: securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available online.