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ACM issues warning against unwanted purchases at meetings

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is warning consumers who receive or have received personal invitations sent by regular mail to social meetings or theme parties nearby that turn out to be product demonstrations. Such meetings or parties often also hold out the prospect of prizes or presents to potential attendees. However, the invitations do not explain that these are actually product demonstrations. At various such product demonstrations, consumers are not reminded of their rights. Such situations can lead to unpleasant surprises.

At these types of product demonstrations, consumers are often pressured to purchase expensive products (usually health care products). Also, they are supposedly able to win trips. But, in the end, it turns out they still need to pay for these trips. Consumers are not accurately informed or even not informed at all about any cooling-off period or about their right to return products within 14 days.

Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “People assume they are going to a fun, social meeting. Once there, they are pressured to purchase all kinds of expensive products without any cooling-off period. As consumers are not aware of their rights, we are issuing this warning about these types of product demonstrations. And we remind them of their rights.”

Right to clear information

ACM finds it important that consumers know what their rights are when making purchases at product demonstrations:

  • Invitations must contain clear information about the nature of the meeting;
  • Sellers must be clear about the cost of their products, and how to operate them;
  • Sellers must inform consumers properly about the conditions that apply to purchases such as a cooling-off period;
  • With regard to products purchased at product demonstrations, consumers usually have a cooling-off period of 14 days starting from the day of delivery;
  • If consumers are not sufficiently informed (or not informed at all) about the cooling-off period, they are entitled to an extended cooling-period of 12 months after the purchase.

Cooling-off periods at product demonstrations

ACM has received reports from consumers about being offered expensive health care products at social meetings such as transdermal therapeutic patches or therapeutic pillows. If consumers later wish to return the product, sellers tell them there is no cooling-off period for that particular product. One oft-heard argument is that these are personal hygiene products. However, that is not allowed. With regard to personal hygiene products, sellers must ensure that each product is sealed. Furthermore, they must clearly inform consumers in advance that, if they break the seal, the cooling-off period expires immediately. So long as the seal has not been removed, the cooling-off period is still in force. Cooling-off periods also apply to trips, particularly if the date of travel and destination are still unclear. Consumers can report their experiences to ConsuWijzer.