Door-to-Door licensing

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by Deron Johnston

Back in the spring of this year, a young man from an energy marketing company came to my home (a common occurrence in town) and told me that he was there to inspect my furnace. I remember that he was dressed in a uniform from head to toe with the company name very visible. He was very convincing and stated that he had the authority on behalf of his company to enter my home. When asked exactly who had given his company that authority to enter my home and inspect my furnace, he said that he only knew that he was told to do it by his employer. I told him that he couldn’t come in, no matter whose authority he thought he had. He began to get visibly frustrated because I wasn’t letting him into my home. He then attempted to step past me through my doorway, so I quickly stepped in front of him to block him from entering. I couldn’t believe that he just tried to enter my home by trying to walk past me! I had specifically told him that he did not have my permission to enter my home! I angrily told him that he needed to leave my property immediately! I went inside and posted a warning for other residents on Facebook and debated phoning the police.

After some research, I discovered that only your insurance company (from which you get your house insurance) might send someone to inspect your furnace, but only after sending you a letter by mail and setting up an appointment with you. The only reason they might want it done is if you were changing policies or had a new insurance company and your furnace was an older one. I’m concerned about what kind of damage one of these individuals could do if they gained access to one of our vulnerable resident’s homes (theft, assault, fraud, intimidating people into signing unwanted contracts etc.).

To keep these people from harming our vulnerable residents, this Fall I e-mailed and sat down to discuss the situation with Fire Chief Paul Hutt. As one of his responsibilities, the Chief oversees By-law Services. I asked if there was currently a by-law that regulated the activities of door-to-door salespeople. He said that he would sit down with the By-law Services Officer and they would look into it and see if there was anything currently in the by-law book. I provided him with copies of by-laws dealing with this topic from both the City of Prescott and the City of Brockville, so that he had an idea about how other municipalities in the area handled it. I also suggested to the Chief that if there isn’t a by-law, that one be created (or if there is one, that it be amended) and include mandatory licencing by the Municipality of North Grenville. This would mean that it would be illegal for these individuals and companies to go door-to-door without a licence issued by the municipality. An application would need to be submitted and approved, as well as a licencing fee that would be charged to any company or individual who wanted to conduct legitimate door-to-door selling in North Grenville (charities and non-profit organizations would be exempt). Each individual would also have to show proof of that licence when asked for by the homeowner or tenant. If unlicensed or unable to provide proof of their licence, the company and/or employee would be subject to a significant fine.

Give full credit to Chief Hutt: a draft by-law to amend the current Licensing By-law 14-08 has been introduced at this week’s Committee of the Whole. The aim of the amended by-law is “to assist in policing aggressive sales tactics, and to validate legitimate agencies that utilize door to door sales”. It provides for municipally-issued licenses which have to be produced on request, and will only cover the period during which the salesperson will be operating in North Grenville.  It limits the hours during which someone can call at your door, and sets fees for each license issued.

What’s more, anyone applying for a license has to state the nature of the goods being sold, prove the genuineness of the company selling the product, and provide a current criminal record check. Assuming the amended by-law is approved at Council next week, this is a great improvement on the situation as it existed before, and the speed with which it has been drafted and brought to Council brings great credit on Paul Hutt and his staff.

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