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FTC Cooling-Off Rule Protects You

Dateline: 07/11/00

If you buy something at a store and later change your mind, you may not be able to return the merchandise because the store's advertised return policy is generally binding. But, if you buy an item in your home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business, you may have the option of returning it thanks to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) consumer protection Cooling-Off Rule. This rule gives you time to cancel purchases of $25.00 or more, and your right to a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale.

The Cooling-Off Rule applies to sales at the buyer's home, workplace, or dormitory, or at facilities the seller rented temporarily or short-term. These could be hotel or motel rooms, convention centers, fairgrounds, and restaurants. And, the Cooling-Off rule applies even when you invite the salesperson to make a presentation in your home.

Discuss this issue in our Free Speech Forum: From warning citizens of dangerous or defective products, to uncovering scams, the U.S. government already makes a huge investment toward consumer protection. But, is it enough? Could/should the government do more to protect consumers? Or, taking the libertarian viewpoint, should the government let the buyer beware and do less to protect consumers? .

Persons buying merchandise at flea markets, fairs, trade shows, conventions and other popular summertime travel venues should be especially aware of the Cooling-Off rule and make sure merchants follow it.

Under the Cooling-Off Rule, the salesperson must:

  • Tell you about your cancellation rights at the time of sale.
  • Give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send).
  • Give you a copy of your contract or receipt. 

The contract or receipt must be dated, show the seller's name and address, and explain your right to cancel. The contract or receipt also must be in the same language that's used in the sales presentation.

If there is any doubt in your mind at the time of the sale, ask the merchant about your Cooling-Off Rule rights and be sure to save your sales receipt or contract and cancellation forms. You'll need them if you want to return your purchase.

For more information about how the Federal Trade Commission and trade regulations protect American consumers, visit the FTC's Consumer Protection Web site.

Reference Links

File a Consumer Complaint Online
A secure online form from the FTC you can use to complain about the practices of a certain business or organization. Note: Your information may be shared with other regulatory government agencies.

More Consumer Resources
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Complaints? Turn 'em In!
Whether you've been scammed, harmed by an unsafe product, or not gotten your money's worth, a Government agency will listen and take action on your complaint. From your About Guide

Consumer Protection - Online Shopping
Information and resources pertaining to Consumer Advocacy from your About Online Shopping Guide Frank Fiore.

Canadian Consumer Protection Complaints and Alerts
Canadian consumer information on the Web helps you and your family live safely and save money. From Canada Online Guide Susan Munroe.

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