Government to slam door in face of pushy, cold-calling salesmen

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Patricia Hewitt is to signal a crackdown on dishonest and pushy doorstep salesmen this week. A public consultation on protecting consumers to be launched by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry could lead to a ban on cold calling for all property services, including window salesmen and roof repairers.

Patricia Hewitt is to signal a crackdown on dishonest and pushy doorstep salesmen this week. A public consultation on protecting consumers to be launched by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry could lead to a ban on cold calling for all property services, including window salesmen and roof repairers.

The Office of Fair Trading urged ministers in May to tighten legislation against doorstep salesmen, after a 20-month investigation.

The Government will ask for contributions from consumer organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, traders' groups and the general public for the four-month consultation.

Other options to be outlined include prohibiting the paying or taking of money, the delivery of goods or the performance of work before the end of the seven-day cooling-off period that starts after the signing of a contract. New laws could also be introduced to ensure that details of consumers' right to cancel are clearly visible in large print on contracts.

Some 15,000 people a year complain about doorstep sellers and their often high-pressure tactics. One single parent in Cornwall recently signed a contract for solar panels worth £6,000 after responding to a sales leaflet delivered through her door. A salesman called at her house and, when she tried to cancel, stayed for five hours. The next day, the company threatened her with legal action for being in breach of contract.

Ms Hewitt will say in a speech to the Consumers Association on Wednesday: "There are legitimate companies which conduct business by means of cold calling and doorstep selling. There is no wish to inhibit these traders or burden them with additional regulations. They can provide a vital service to people who, for whatever reason, can't get out and about.

"But there is no doubt that there are unscrupulous traders who take advantage of consumers and target the vulnerable and we are determined to tackle this."

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