23 December 2014

What Are Your Rights When You Buy Over The Phone?

“Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and the next customer service agent will be with you shortly.”

As annoying as it is to be on hold and hear that message, there’s truth in the first sentence: most companies really do want to do what they can to ensure your shopping experience with them is pleasant. In most cases, a phone call is usually enough to resolve the situation if they fall short. However, if that doesn’t happen, there are four things you can do about it.

1. Know Whether Your State Participates In A “Cooling-Off” Rule

In some states, laws exist that allow buyers and sellers to cancel a contract within a certain time period. These laws are called “cooling off” rules. The “cooling-off” rule does not apply to phone sales at a federal level, but many states have their own laws that do enforce a cool-off period, even for over-the-phone sales. For example, Minnesota residents have three days to “cool off” after a sale of more than $25. You’ll want to do your due diligence to find out if your state participates in a cool-off rule and what you’re required to do to cancel the order. Generally, that includes steps like:

  • Cancelling the contract in writing.
  • Keeping a copy of your letter.
  • Mailing the letter by certified mail so you know the letter was received and who signed for it.

2. File a Complaint With the Company

When filing a complaint with the company itself, be sure to keep thorough records. Consider making several copies of your paperwork (for you, for the company, and extras in case they are needed). Here’s a list of what you should have on hand and be able to produce if necessary:

  • Your transaction ID;
  • Your order number;
  • Payment information from the original sale; and
  • Records of the dates, times, and names of employees you made contact with during and after the sale.

It’s also important to be reasonable and to-the-point when writing a complaint letter. You can find more tips and a complaint letter template here.

3. File a Complaint With the Attorney General’s Office

You may be able to file a complaint with the attorney general’s office in your state. Contact your local consumer protection office to get help with a consumer complaint or to find out what protections your state offers.

4. Don’t Stop If You Reach a Roadblock

This “Smart Shopping” article produced by the federal government recommends you “continue this process of reporting the problem in writing to industry trade organizations, local consumer protection agencies, and if necessary the Better Business Bureau, until your problem is resolved.”

You can find out more about your rights when shopping over the phone here and here.

What about businesses?

Businesses, on the other hand, may also be interested in protecting themselves when selling over the phone.

  • Businesses should keep detailed records and record their phone transactions.
    Call detail records can provide you with “just the facts” and make it easy to find troublesome calls in the future.
  • Make sure you have proof.
    Call recording is evidence that takes all the guesswork and “he said/she said” out of identifying a missed sale or poor customer service. Audio files of the call are accessible from the cloud on any device, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what was said and who said it—even when you’re not in the office.
  • Ensure your over-the-phone sales are PCI compliant.
    For business conducted over the phone, PCI compliance is a must-do. With Protect+, you have the ability to record your calls completely, including the customer’s agreement to the contract and price, without risking compliance. Callcap will go into your calls and remove the credit card numbers, removing your liability but protecting and storing the information in case you need to reference it later on.
  • Train your employees when they’re making a sale.
    That includes training them in all requirements, disclosures, and compliance regulations. If you don’t properly train your employees, their mistakes could put you at risk for fines and penalties.

While most companies do their best to treat their customers the right way, there’s a chance you may receive poor service when shopping over the phone. By knowing your rights, you may be able to save yourself from extra headaches and expenses.