We all have experienced someone knocking on our door for various reasons. What are the laws that govern this activity? Let’s explore the topic!
Chapter 31 of the Fairfax County Code of Ordinances addresses “Peddlers, Solicitors and Canvassers.” As defined in the Code, a canvasser is an opinion-sampler or a poll-taker who is being compensated or working for someone who is being compensated. A peddler carries merchandise and offers it for sale. A solicitor takes orders for goods or services for future delivery.
Summarizing, the following acts by peddlers, solicitors, and canvassers are prohibited:
- Conducting activity without first obtaining a County license (with exceptions).
- Failing, upon request, to exhibit a license to a prospective buyer.
- Attempting to gain entry (i.e., ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door) if a residence displays a sign bearing the words “No Peddlers or Solicitors” or words of similar import.
- Conducting activity prior to 9:00 a.m. and after 8:00 p.m.
- Failing to disclose, upon request, the name of the peddler, solicitor, or canvasser and the name of the company.
- Failing to provide, upon request, a written receipt.
- Leading the public to believe that a license constitutes an approval or endorsement by the County.
In the case of peddlers and solicitors, any vehicle used in the conduct of business must display the name and business address of the person or business using the vehicle.
The Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs of Fairfax County is responsible for issuing licenses to peddlers, solicitors, and canvassers. The Director conducts applicant investigations to assess risks to the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Reasons for denial include any felony conviction over the prior five years and any conviction over the prior five years for a crime against a person or involving moral turpitude, such as those involving sexual conduct or narcotics. In addition, intentionally making false statements on an application will result in denial. There are a number of entities that do not require a County license, such as telephone solicitors who do not have a place of business in the state. However, these are not the typical people who show up on our front step. Interestingly, two entities are not considered peddlers, solicitors, or canvassers in the County Code: persons selling fresh farm products and persons selling newspaper subscriptions.
A County-issued license contains the following information: license number, name of applicant, photograph and thumbprint of the individual, kind of goods sold or services performed, name of employer, date of issuance and expiration date, and signature of the County Director. Any person who violates any provision of Chapter 31 will be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.
Hopefully, this information will better prepare you to handle an encounter with a peddler, solicitor, or canvasser. If you feel that someone is not complying with the law, you can summon the police. You may end up doing a favor for the whole cluster.