For those of us who work from home, the day can often be a non-stop round of interruptions – sales calls, salespeople and the daily wedge of junk mail to sift through. Even if you go out to work, your evenings are frequently punctuated by the same. The invasion of our privacy at home is becoming an important issue, which is why procedures are in place both to protect you and to allow you to opt out. Refer also to the section on the Data Protection Act in terms of your right to find out what personal information companies have about you and to control how it is used.

Unsolicited visits

All householders can expect, at some point, to be greeted by a cold-caller trying to sell them stuff – whether this be cleaning products, encyclopaedias or home improvements. It can be difficult enough to tell them you’re not interested, and it can be more difficult still to ask them to leave once they are inside the house and giving you the hard sell. For this reason, the Consumer Protection (Doorstep Selling) Regulations provides protection for anyone who may have entered into an agreement as a result of undue pressure, by allowing you a cooling off period of 7 days during which time you have the right to cancel. Although, there is another advantage in that it also enables you to go away and compare alternatives. Read more about your rights under the Doorstep Selling Regs here.

Junk mail and cold calls

If you have bought something or entered into an agreement as a direct result of having received a telemarketing call, a flyer, a brochure, or a catalogue, and there has been no face to face contact with any representative form the company, you have certain rights under the Distance Selling Regulations. One of the most important implications of these regs is the a ‘cooling off period’ of 7 days during which you have the right to cancel without charge. Read more about your rights under the Distance Selling Regs here.

I’ve been sent stuff I never ordered!

The Distance Selling Regulations are very clear on this. If you’ve been sent or given unsolicited goods, you are entitled to treat them as an unconditional gift and do with them as you choose. You are not required to keep them for any amount of time and you are certainly not required to pay for them. Any attempt to demand payment (by threatening means or otherwise) is unlawful.

Opting out

Marketing departments of UK firms must comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act in terms of how they deal with personal data. Nobody likes to receive excessive amounts of junk mail or get badgered by unwanted phone calls, and it is your right not to have to deal with this at all. In addition to your right to opt out under the Act, The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) runs the Mailing Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service (see: If you apply to have your details (and the details of anybody else living in your household) put on the list, most reputable firms will pay reference to this list before sending out marketing material.