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The Cooling-Off Rule: When & How to Cancel a Sale

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If you buy something at a store and later change your mind, you may not be able to return the merchandise. 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. The Federal Trade Commission's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel purchases of $25 or more. Under the Cooling-Off Rule, your right to cancel for 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 rented by the seller on a temporary or short-term basis, such as hotel or motel rooms, convention centers, fairgrounds and restaurants. The Cooling-Off Rule applies even when you invite the salesperson to make a presentation in your home.

Under the Cooling-Off Rule, the salesperson must tell you about your cancellation rights at the time of sale. The salesperson also must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send) and a copy of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt should be dated, show the name and address of the seller, and explain your right to cancel. The contract or receipt must be in the same language that's used in the sales presentation.

Some Exceptions
Some types of sales cannot be canceled even if they do occur in locations normally covered by the Rule. The Cooling-Off Rule does not cover sales that:

  • Are under $25.
  • Are for goods or services not primarily intended for personal, family or household purposes. The Rule applies to courses of instruction or training.
  • Are made entirely by mail or telephone.
  • Are the result of prior negotiations at the seller's permanent business location where the goods are sold regularly.
  • Are needed to meet an emergency. Suppose insects suddenly appear in your home, and you waive your right to cancel.
  • Are made as part of your request for the seller to do repairs or maintenance on your personal property (purchases made beyond the maintenance or repair request are covered).
Also exempt from the Cooling-Off Rule are sales that involve:
  • Real estate, insurance, or securities.
  • Automobiles, vans, trucks, or other motor vehicles sold at temporary locations, provided the seller has at least one permanent place of business.
  • Arts or crafts sold at fairs or locations such as shopping malls, civic centers, and schools.
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