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6/13/2017 House OKs Tanzi bill giving seniors a way out of contracts with door-to-door solicitors
STATE HOUSE – Elderly Rhode Islanders would get some protection from high-pressure at-home sales pitches by contractors under a bill sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi and approved by the House of Representatives today.

The legislation (2017-H 5826A), which will now head to the Senate, would allow anyone age 60 or older a three-day window in which to cancel any contract with a licensed contractor if that contract originated from in-home solicitation.

The bill is meant to provide protection to seniors, who are frequently targets of high-pressure sales solicitations by contractors who knock on their doors to sell them services.

“This is aimed at giving the elderly some protection from the contractor who shows up and points out their chipping paint or crumbling chimney, and pressures them into signing a contract on the spot. Some of those pitches are designed to prey on senior citizens, so seniors deserve at least this little bit of protection so they have the opportunity to evaluate their need for the service and the price, talk it over with their family if they need to, and cancel the contract if that’s what’s best for them,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

She said she submitted the legislation after hearing about a friend’s elderly aunt who was pressured into signing a contract for chimney cleaning and repairs by contractors who came to her door, said they were working in the area, and said her chimney was in poor shape and needed their services. While the work they provided was satisfactory, the price was very high. The woman’s family, who regularly checked on her and helped her with tasks, had previously used another contractor who could have performed the work for significantly less, if they had had the opportunity to discuss the project.  

Under the legislation, if the customer signing the contract is age 60 or older, he or she will have three days to reconsider and cancel the contract in writing and receive any deposit back within 20 days, if the contract originated from an at-home solicitation. Any contractor soliciting in this manner will also be required to notify the customer of that right. Should a contractor fail to return the deposit, the customer would be entitled to double the damages in any resulting legal proceedings.

“This is consumer protection for a common situation. While door-to-door solicitations can be legitimate, they can also be ways of catching people off-guard and alone and using high-pressure tactics to convince them to sign overpriced contracts for work they can’t afford, don’t need, or could do in a less-expensive manner. This gives seniors an out if, after they have a little while to think it over, they realize the service is not something they actually want,” said Representative Tanzi.

The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist.5, Providence), Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown) and Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923