June 14, 2011

NEW ZEALAND: Elderly warned of pushy sales tactics

WELLINGTON / Taranaki Daily News / June 14, 2011

By Leighton Keith

Door-to-door salesmen convinced an 87-year-old New Plymouth woman to buy a double bed – for almost $5000.

Dorothy Christian's daughter, Fay Cox, said it took weeks to cancel the purchase contract after her mother was taken to a bank by salesmen to withdraw money and sign automatic payment forms.

Mrs Cox said her vulnerable mother was pressured into buying a bed she did not want or need.

Her complaints about the tactics of Craftmatic sellers 11 months ago are now being echoed in other North Island centres, including Rotorua, Tauranga and Hamilton.

Mrs Cox said her mother was sold a $4750 Craftmatic adjustable bed after being approached by a salesman who came to her door.

Her mother was later taken to the bank by the man and a colleague to withdraw money for a $1425 deposit.

She also signed automatic payment forms for 78 fortnightly payments of $42.62.

"As soon as I found out about it I went down to the bank to cancel the automatic payments," Mrs Cox said.

She said her mother was intimidated and had signed the document just to get rid of the salesmen.

The company that sells the beds is based in Adelaide and promotes its products online. But an internet check by the Taranaki Daily News showed a court in Perth, Western Australia, fined the company for breaching fair trading laws in the case of two elderly customers. British authorities had also received complaints about the company's pressure-selling techniques dating back to 2005.

Last month express.co.uk reported a Craftmatic Company in Britain had collapsed, and one customer said she was left in debt to her bank after she was pressured into making a purchase.

The man Mrs Cox believes acted for the company when the sale was made to her mother is New Plymouth man Derek Abrams. He was not at his home when the Daily News called yesterday.

Mrs Cox said she had been alerted by Kathy Glass, elder protection service co-ordinator for Te Hauora Pou Heretanga.

Mrs Glass told the Daily News Mrs Christian did not want the bed and felt that she had been pressured into purchasing it.

"These men ... had been there for a long time and she just signed all of the papers to get rid of them," she said.

She believed the tactics amount to abuse.

Mrs Glass believed Mr Abrams had more recently been selling mobility scooters.

Ministry of Consumer Affairs senior advisor Debbie Bidlake said some sellers used pressure techniques and she urged people to be cautious when buying products from door-to-door salesmen.

"Run it by someone that you trust. Seek some advice before you actually agree to hand over your hard-earned cash. If you are feeling uncomfortable then call someone you trust to come around and give you a bit of a hand," she said.

New Zealand's Door to Door Sales Act provides a seven-day cooling-off period during which time the contract can be cancelled.

"That is designed to help protect consumers by providing things like cooling-off periods," Ms Bidlake said.

© 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

Illustration by courtesy: marketingprofs.com