Q: Do I have a certain amount of time to cancel any contract I might make?
A: No. Many people believe that any contract can be cancelled within a certain amount of time (such as 24 hours or three days). However, the law only allows certain types of transactions to be cancelled, and generally these must be cancelled within three days using special notices or cancellation forms. These transactions include:
o home solicitation (door-to-door) sales;
o sales of personal use goods or services costing more than $25 that are sold at a place rented by the seller on a temporary or short-term basis (except for arts or crafts items);
o health club contracts;
o dating service contracts; and
o second mortgages on homes (“equity” loans, consolidation loans and refinancing loans).
If this right to cancel (called a “rescission” right) applies to a purchase you have made, the salesperson must tell you about your cancellation rights at the time of sale and must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send), along with a copy of your contract or receipt.
Q: I signed up for a dating service two weeks ago, but didn’t know about my right to cancel. Can I still back out of the contract?
A: It depends. For a dating service contract, or any other kind of transaction listed above that carries, by law, a cancellation period, the dating service representative who sold you the contract should have given you a written explanation and cancellation form when you signed up. If you received the proper form, you would have been advised to send in a written cancellation by certified mail and/or personal delivery within three business days. If, however, you did not receive the right forms, then you still have the right to cancel your contract at any time.
Q: What if the dating service won’t honor my cancellation notice?
A: Generally speaking, in situations where you have the right to cancel and the store won’t honor your right, then it is up to you to take the next step. You can complain to the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling (614)466-8831, or you can complain to the Better Business Bureau online at www.bbb.org. You can also complain in writing to the Consumer Response Center, FTC, Washington, DC 20580. If the amount is less than $3,000, you can file a claim in your local small claims court.
Q: If I want to return of a sweater that doesn’t fit, can a retail store refuse to take it back?
A: Yes, as long as the store posts a conspicuous sign stating its return policy for all items purchased by cash or check. Ohio law allows retailers to determine their own return policies, and some store policies may state that returns will not be accepted.
Q: What if the sweater is defective?
A: Generally speaking, the seller must refund your money or replace the item if it is defective. However, if the seller’s sales receipt says there are no warranties on the item, then the seller generally does not have to give you a refund or replace the item. If the item was covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, then the manufacturer may be responsible to you.
Q: I used my credit card to buy an item that was defective. Can I dispute the charge if the store won’t honor my cancellation notice?
A: Yes. You must notify the credit card company that you want to dispute the purchase by sending a written notice, within 60 days of the billing, to the billing dispute address that appears on your billing statement. The credit card company must then conduct an investigation of your problem. You don’t have to pay the disputed amount until the dispute is resolved, but you still have to pay the rest of your credit card bill.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Ronald L. Burdge, a Dayton attorney.