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Cooling-Off Periods for Wedding Vendor Contracts?

"While I

“While I’ve got you on this horse, let me tell you about our new and improved manure picker-upper….”

I’ve been told that long ago, salesmen went door-to-door peddling knives, dishwashers, quality meats, and industrial-strength detergents to homemakers all over the country. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t around then. My only understanding of the time period comes from this Looney Tunes scene featuring the Little Giant Vacuum Company from Walla Walla, Washington. With the advent of peep holes and common sense, that practice slowly faded away. Then, when door-to-door sales were no longer an option, the Willy Lomans of the world took to hotel conference rooms. Luring unwitting customers with promises of free donuts, the stakes increased from housewares to expensive Bahamian timeshares and pyramid-shaped businesses. Many would leave with jelly stains on their shirts…. and extremely one-sided contracts.

At some point, some Senator’s grandmother got duped into purchasing a flex-week timeshare shack in Juarez, Mexico, with like eighty other seniors.

“Mee-ma, you’re week isn’t even up until 2028. And I see a kilo of cocaine in the picture of the bedroom.”

That was one Granny too many for Congress. Lawmakers decided to enact legislation that would protect consumers from high-pressure pitches (often unsolicited) by travelling salesman. That’s when we got the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) Cooling-Off Rule. The Cooling-Off Rule gives consumers, in very limited circumstances, a three-day period to cancel a contract. What are those very limited circumstances?

  • The purchase totals $25.00 or more; and
  • The sale takes place at the buyer’s home (even where invited by buyer), 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 (except Taco Bell*).

Some wedding professionals conduct meetings at the potential client’s home. Are they in danger of having their contracts shredded? Probably not. The FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule does not apply to:

  • Contracts for goods or services not primarily intended for personal, family or household purposes.
  • Contracts that are the result of prior negotiations at the seller’s permanent business location where the goods are sold regularly.
  • Contracts made primarily by mail or telephone.

Regardless of how you cut it, most wedding businesses probably do not fall under the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule.

Professional planning, DJ, photography, or catering services are not going to considered to be for “personal, family, or household” use. More importantly, placing wedding vendors under the rubric of the Cooling-Off Rule does not further the policy rationale of the law.Wedding vendor services are not sold (in my experience) door-to-door or under high-pressure situations. Often, the potential clients are allowed time with an unsigned contract to think it over.

While many states have their own version of the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule, they mostly protect consumers from the same kind of transactions. Some go a little further, like California, which allows a cooling-off period for gym membership contracts. That one’s definitely necessary. There’s way too many people getting locked into gym memberships that don’t need them?

* Just Kidding.

 

 

About 

Rob Schenk is one of the country’s most prominent “Wedding Lawyers,” a special designation for trial lawyers representing wedding and event industry professionals involved in business disputes and in transactional matters.
Rob was awarded Rising Star of 2015, 2016, and 2017 by Super Lawyers, an honor bestowed on only 2.5% of attorneys. Rob has previously been recognized by his colleagues with a Martindale-Hubbell’s AV Preeminent Rating. Rob is licensed to practice law in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, California, and New York.

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