Caveat Vendor: California’s Home Solicitation Sales Act

Caveat Vendor: California’s Home Solicitation Sales Act

In 1971, the California Legislature enacted the Home Solicitation Sales Act, giving California consumers a three-day right to cancel home solicitation contracts.  To this day, California’s Home Solicitation Sales Act remains one of the strictest in the nation and provides sweeping protections for consumers.

The Home Solicitation Sales Act applies to contracts that are not entered into at “appropriate trade premises.” While the statute would obviously apply to door-to-door sales, as it is written, it also applies to deals that are simply made away from the seller’s place of business. This can include deals made in airplanes, at swap meets, or potentially even other stores not owned by the seller. The question is not whether the deal made at the buyer’s home, rather, whether the deal is made away from the seller’s place of business.

In addition to providing a three day right of cancellation, the Act gives other protections. It provides that:

  • The contract must be written in the same language that was used in the business presentation;
  • The contract must contain a bold disclosure: “You, the buyer, may cancel this transaction at any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of this transaction. See the attached notice of cancellation form for an explanation of this right.”;
  • The contract must contain a detachable “Notice of Cancellation” written in the same language as the contract;
  • The seller must provide the buyer with a copy of the contract; and
  • The seller must orally tell the buyer of their right to cancel.

If any of these requirements are not complied with, the buyer may cancel the contract, at any point, until there is compliance. The consumer does not have to pay anything and if the seller does not demand the goods within 20 days of cancellation, they become the property of the buyer.

While the results of non-compliance may seem harsh, the statute is easy to comply with and has been on the books since 1971. As one court put it as early as 1977:

If this result appears to deal harshly with merchants who have fully performed under their contracts, it seems clear to this court that the message which the Legislature has attempted to convey by enactment of section 1689.5 et seq. of the Civil Code is “Caveat Vendor.” Merchants, put on notice by the statute, can easily and inexpensively protect themselves, however, by including a right to cancel provision and an accompanying notice of cancellation as a matter of course in all contracts signed outside their trade premises.

Weatherall Aluminum Prod. Co. v. Scott, 71 Cal. App. 3d 245, 249 (Ct. App. 1977)

Despite this clear message from the legislature, 48 years later, many companies still fail to comply with the Home Solicitation Sales Act.

Some contracts simply do not comply with the statute.

Other violations are more nefarious and intentional. Conn Law, PC is currently investigating Home Solicitation Sales Act violations in the solar energy industry, where the contracts themselves comply with the Act, but salespeople engage in numerous violations, including, but not limited to:

  • Forging the consumer’s signature;
  • Failing to provide the consumer with a contract at all; and
  • Failing to inform the consumer of the right to cancel (or that any contract was entered into at all)

The problems that the Legislature recognized in 1971 are still around today. If you believe that you have been a victim of a door-to-door scam, please give us a call or fill out our online intake form here.

August 1, 2019