How to get the best deal from a doorstep sale
Sometimes people will call to your door offering products or services for sale. These people may be a tradesperson, or may be representing a gas or electricity company and are called doorstep sellers.
Recent research carried out on behalf of Switcher.ie showed that half of all gas and electricity switches happen on the doorstep, with almost a quarter of broadband switches happening as a result of a doorstep sale.
Given doorstep sales play such a large part in the switching market, it’s important to know about the process so you know what your rights are and can figure out if there are savings to be made.
What exactly is a doorstep sale?
A doorstep sale is when you buy something or sign up to a service from your home, someone else’s home or where you work. The most common types of products and services on offer in a doorstep sale include:
- gas and/or electricity services;
- home phone or internet services;
- gardening, cleaning, building or housekeeping; and
- cosmetics and homeware.
A doorstep seller must not call to your home selling a service on the following days:
- Christmas Eve
- Bank Holidays
Similarly, they must not call to your home outside the following times:
- 9am to 9pm on weekdays
- 9am to 7pm on Saturdays
What is the doorstep selling process?
It’s important to remember that a doorstep sale is a business transaction, and you have the exact same rights during this transaction conducted from your home or place or work as you do when buying on the seller’s premises.
In terms of energy sales, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has outlined a process that all doorstep sellers of energy services need to follow. It’s important to know what to expect in the doorstep selling process so you know you are getting the best deal.
Firstly the doorstep salesperson will need to identify themselves by telling you what company they represent and show you ID. This ID must have the salesperson’s full name and photo, as well as the name, business address and contact number of the supplier they work for.
Purpose of visit
The salesperson then needs to advise you of the purpose of the visit and enquire if you wish to progress further.
Be sure to take your time before committing to buying or signing up for anything. It’s important that the product or service on offer works best for you and suits your needs.
It’s possible that the salesperson will only be allowed to sell one specific deal so, although it’s likely you’ll be offered a better deal than you are currently on - especially if you’re on standard tariffs - it might be worth taking the time to compare the prices of other deals on offer.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you want to sign up to a service, ask for some written information that you can refer to later.
If you do decide to sign up, it’s important that you understand the total cost to you, the contract length and all terms and conditions of the contract.
Stopping the sale
If you inform the salesperson that you do not wish to proceed with the sale at any time, then they must leave your premises immediately.
The salesperson must provide you with a copy of the standard doorstep checklist before starting their sales pitch and before any sale is conducted.
The CER recently introduced changes to this checklist, which is contained in the Suppliers Handbook, to introduce additional protections for consumers.
Among other things, the checklist requires consumers to confirm that the doorstep salesperson:
- Explained the energy offer / product they are signing them up to, and any discounts that will apply;
- Provided the consumer with information about all charges that apply to the offer or product, including the standard unit rate and standing charge;
- Explained how the consumer will be billed and how to pay the bill - i.e. over the counter, by direct debit, or level pay.
The consumer must also confirm that they were told how long the contract applies for, and what penalty charges apply if the contract is terminated early.
In addition, the salesperson must enquire whether the consumer is eligible to register as a Vulnerable Customer and provide them with relevant information regarding registration as a Vulnerable Customer.
If you are signing up for a pay-as-you-go deal, the salesperson must also assess whether or not this is suitable for your household.
As part of the sign up process, the salesperson must ensure that you have read and understood this checklist they gave you, and that you understand you are switching to a specified product with a specified payment method.
Before the salesperson leaves your premises, make sure you are fully aware of the cancellation terms and conditions and ask them for a written copy of the cancellation notice and cancellation form.
Normally you will have 14 days to cancel the service after signing up for it without any penalties. This is called a “cooling off period”.
Getting the best deal
As we have already noted, it’s possible that, although you may save money from switching on the doorstep, you may not get the best deal for you as sellers are generally tied to one company or product.
So, what can you do to ensure you get the best deal from a doorstep sale?
- Make sure you know what company the salesperson is representing.
- Check what type of plan they are offering and ask if they can offer the same deals that are featured online. Online plans are often the cheapest.
- Make sure the salesperson has asked you about your current plan, how you pay your bill, and - if switching energy - what your current consumption is and the size of your property. These are all key elements in calculating how much money you can save by switching.
- Get a full quote telling you what your new annual bill would be so that you can compare it with your current bill.
- Make sure you know if there is a standing charge, and what the early exit penalties are, if any.
- Make a note of the salesperson’s name and ID number so you can contact them if you have any further questions.
- Don’t feel pressured to sign up for anything there and then on your doorstep. If you are interested, take some information from the seller to review in your own time.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for a doorstep energy seller to come to you to switch supplier - you can compare prices online for gas and electricity, broadband and digital TV with Switcher.ie whenever you like, and switching to a cheaper plan could save you hundreds of euro.