Lock on a ComputerFederal and state consumer laws protect buyers in sales transactions. Online, mail order, and door-to-door purchases are often the focus of additional legal protections because these transactions can give the seller extra influence over the buyer. Laws controlling such sales often give you the right to cancel the transaction after a "cooling off" period that allows you some time to reconsider the purchase.

Federal Laws Allow Buyers to Cancel Purchases

The Federal Trade Commission gives buyers the right to cancel any sale of consumer goods worth more than $25 that is made door-to-door. A buyer has three days to cancel the transaction with no penalty. This law also applies to sales made at a "home party" hosted by a single person or a "home show" hosted outside of the seller's ordinary place of business, such as at a hotel or expo.

State Law Gives Buyers Additional Rights

Many states also give buyers the right to cancel door-to-door sales outright within a certain time period. Under federal law, buyers have at least three days, but state law may allow additional time. Some state consumer protection laws also allow buyers to cancel mail or telephone orders and online purchases, typically within 30 days, as long as the order has not been filled. This protects buyers against remote sellers who accept the purchase price for goods but never deliver the merchandise.

Home Sales Have Additional State Protections

In addition to state laws that give buyers cancellation rights in specific types of direct sales transactions, some states allow the buyer to cancel any sales contract at all made in the person's home. Consumer protection laws shield the buyer against door-to-door and in-home sellers who may attempt to apply additional pressure on the buyer. These laws typically require the buyer to send the seller a written notice of cancellation within three days.

Sellers Must Return Deposits

Once you have properly canceled an online, mail order, or door-to-door purchase, the seller is required to return any deposit or down payment that you paid to secure the purchase. The seller must return the entire amount, but may not have to do so immediately. The length of time the seller has to return the money will depend on the specifics of the state law. You must also return anything you have received from the seller that was part of the transaction.

A Consumer Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding online, mail order, and door-to-door purchases of products and services is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a consumer lawyer.

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