Money Mensch: It's time to hang up on those cold-callers
It's time to slam the door on unwanted doorstep sellers, close the letterbox on junk mailers and put the handset down on unsolicited sales callers. We have now more rights than ever to be left alone.
Britain's "big six" energy companies finally waved the white flag after a brilliant campaign by Trading Standards and Consumer Focus. They have promised that their doorstep selling teams will no longer cold call at any property showing a "No Cold Callers" sign in the window or door.
However, while the worst doorstep sellers will sadly pile on the pressure to take advantage of the vulnerable and elderly, it can also be a great way for local start-up businesses to introduce themselves to customers. So think carefully before you say no. If you do decide enough is enough, here are my top ten tips ...
● Put up a FREE 'No Cold Callers' sign
If you pin up a clear sign asking cold callers to leave you alone, no one from any of the big six energy companies, British Gas, E.On, EDF, SSE, Scottish Power or NPower, should bother you. Either make a sign yourself and paste it on your letterbox or window next to the door or print off my free version approved by Trading Standards at www.moneysavingexpert.com/nocallers
If, despite your sign, they still knock on your door, point out the sign. If they don't instantly walk away, take down their name and staff number to report them to their employer.
The new energy provider rule will be added to the EnergySure Code in October this year, but the practice has already been ruled out. If that doesn't work, take it to the Energy Ombudsman.
● Be confident to turn away other cold callers too
It doesn't matter what they are selling: dusters, duvets, DVDs or doilies - you have absolutely no obligation to let them in to your home. While the "No Cold Callers" sign can't legally stop non-energy sales folks, it, very usefully, allows you to open the door, politely point at your sign without engaging in a conversation and quietly close it again.
● Never sign anything
If you don't mind a natter with salesmen, just be sure you always check their ID. If you are not sure, see if there's a telephone number you can call to verify they are who they say they are.
And never sign any form proffered "just for a quote"; some nasty doorstep sellers use your signature there as a green light to switch your service provider or charge you for future goods.
● Don't believe any 'Martin Lewis' door-knockers
Growing number of cold-callers and phone sellers have the front to claim that they have either been recommended or supported by me, or are actually working for me or my website. Let me take a quick opportunity to confirm that they are lying - I never give my permission.
● Stop all unwanted marketing phone calls
Register with the Telephone Preference Service www.tpsonline.org.uk (or call 0800 398893) and then it's against the law for any UK companies that you haven't asked, to call you. However, it usually takes around a month after you've signed up to have an impact.
Sadly this won't put the kibosh on random number diallers. When these automatically-generated numbers get through, simply note them down and log on to premium number regulator www.phonepayplus.org.uk to try and stop them.
● Prevent junk mail from flopping through your letterbox
Flyers, offers, deals, store openings, catalogues - the list is sadly endless. Junk mail can be a major irritant, yet, unlike phone calls, you don't actually have a legal right to stem the stream.
However, sign up to the Mail Preference Service at www.mpsonline.org.uk or call 08457 034599 and every member of the trade body Direct Marketing Association will then agree to stop their letters going to that address.
It will take up to four months to staunch the flow, but should eventually reduce the sheer volume by up to 95 per cent.
And, if you've a fax at home, you can stop unwanted faxes being sent through by going to www.fpsonline.org.uk and registering your machine number.
● Stop unwanted flyers from the royal mail
You can opt out of receiving unaddressed leaflets and flyers delivered by the Royal Mail. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a form or write to Freepost RRBT-ZBXB-TTTS, Royal Mail Opt Out, Kingsmead House, Oxford, OX1 1RX.
● Be sure you really want to stop junk mail
Not all junk mail is, well, junk. Amid the duff insurance and dodgy discount deals post can sometimes lie hidden gems. The longest-ever 0% balance transfer card began as a junk mail offer, and many other bespoke market leading deals are too.
So the money-savvy with time to sift through the mail may not want to cancel.
● Turn the tables on texts too
What a horrible letdown when your phone beeps with a text, and you discover it's a "reverse billed" message that charges you to receive it. Thankfully, you should be able to prevent any more coming through by texting back STOP or STOP ALL, making it illegal for them to send any more. If that doesn't work, call your network to stop them but it that fails too, ask www.phonepayplus.org.uk to launch an investigation.
● If all else fails, you have a right to change your mind
Unlike store-bought goods, buy from a door-step salesman or over the phone, and the law automatically means you have seven days to change your mind and cancel the goods or service - even if they are not faulty. There are a few exceptions: DVDs or CDs where you've ripped the seal, flowers, food, personal items such as deodorant. And for doorstep orders only, you must have spent at least £35.