November 04, 2010

Door-to-door magazine sales

Dear Consumer Ed:

A teenage girl came to my door selling magazine subscriptions. She said she lived in the neighborhood and was trying to raise money for college tuition. I wrote the magazine company a check for $83 for three subscriptions. Eight weeks later, I still have not received any magazines, although my check was cashed. When I called the company, I got a recording saying, “This number is not available for incoming calls.” How can I report this company and get my money back?

Consumer Ed says:

Magazine subscription scams involving scenarios exactly like yours are very common, and have been used for years. Usually, the salesperson claims to be a student selling magazine subscriptions, using the appeal that your sale will help send her team to a sports competition (or some other good cause), or help her get a college scholarship or other such rewards. While these solicitations can be legitimate, often they are scams simply designed to take your money.

It’s unfortunate, because there are real students out there selling door-to-door for legitimate school causes, but unless you actually know the person pitching the magazines, you should always be cautious of someone selling anything door-to-door. A door-to-door salesperson who is not selling on behalf of a school or charitable organization is usually required by the local municipality to have a permit, so ask to see the sales permit. You should always ask to see the seller’s ID, and if he claims to attend a particular college, he should be able to produce a photo ID issued by that institution; if he cannot, or if he cannot give a neighborhood address that you can easily identify as genuine, don’t place an order. 

You should also be aware that the FTC's Cooling-Off Rule protects consumers who buy from a door-to-door salesperson if the purchase is more than $25. The rule gives you three days to cancel your order and receive a full refund. The seller must tell you that you have a right to cancel, and give you a summary of your cancellation rights and two copies of the cancellation form. Always ask to see the required cancellation notice before you agree to buy. If the salesperson doesn't have it, don't place an order – the company is breaking the law, and should be reported to the proper authorities immediately. 

If the salesperson failed to give you the cancellation form or if the company failed to send the magazines or issue you a refund, you can report the incident to your local police department.  You should also report it to the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 or by going to

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