Door-to-Door Peddling & Soliciting in Howard County
Many residents don’t like to be solicited at home regardless of whether it’s by phone, email or someone knocking on the door. Privacy concerns and the rise in scams make residents even more wary of door-to-door solicitations. Nonetheless, many businesses still find this a profitable way to conduct business.
To learn more, view Howard County Code, Section 14.700. A sample peddler's card is pictured, below.
Someone selling at your door? Ask to see an ID card!
Anyone who goes door-to-door in Howard County to offer or sell goods and services, take orders for the future delivery of goods and services, sell subscriptions to newspapers, magazines or other publications, or request donations on behalf of charities or non-profit organizations, must first register with, and receive an identification (ID) card from, the Office of Consumer Protection.
Peddler and Solicitor Regulation
Peddling means moving about the County by foot or vehicle of any kind, from place to place, house to house, door to door, or upon any street or highway, for the purpose of selling and simultaneously delivering or offering for sale and simultaneous delivery, at retail, any goods, wares, merchandise, services or foodstuffs of any kind whatever.
Soliciting means traveling about the County by foot or vehicle of any kind from place to place, house to house, door to door, or upon any street or highway, for the purpose of engaging in any one or more of the following activities:
- Attempting to obtain orders for the sale and future delivery.
- Attempting to obtain subscriptions to books, magazines, or newspapers, and every other kind of printed matter not published in Howard County, the State of Maryland or the District of Columbia.
- Attempting to obtain gifts or contributions of money, clothing or any other valuable things for the support or benefit of any charitable or nonprofit association, organization, corporation or project.
No person shall engage in soliciting or peddling in the county unless that person has obtained an identification (ID) card from the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP).
Howard County peddler / solicitor licensing laws do not apply to:
- Persons selling produce, milk, butter, eggs or poultry which they grow themselves;
- Persons making sales on private property at the invitation of the owner or occupant;
- Persons engaged in business to business transactions;
- Charitable or nonprofit associations that register annually with the administrator (see below);
- Insurance brokers with valid insurance licenses including trainees;
- Real estate brokers and agents with valid real estate licenses and their trainees;
- Politicians, voter registrars, and individuals working on ballot questions;
- Organizations who have qualified under the “Code of Ethics” exception(see below).
Charitable or Nonprofit Association Exception - Charities and Nonprofits are not required to pay for peddlers or solicitors licenses but are required to register with OCP. Please note, that in order to qualify for the exemption, a charitable or nonprofit association must provide evidence that it has §501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service.
“Code of Ethics” Exception - This exception applies to persons who sell or take orders for companies that subscribe to or are bound by a policy statement, code or regulation established by the company or by a recognized trade association in which the applicant company is a member in good standing, only if the policy statement, code or regulation:
- Requires that the offer of products or services for sale be truthful and accurate as to price, grade, quantity, make, value, performance, currency of model and availability;
- Requires that the terms of any guarantee offered in connection with the sale be furnished to the buyer in writing and clearly state the nature and extent of the guarantee;
- Prohibits the initiation or continuation of any deceptive or any unlawful trade practices;
- Has an established procedure for processing consumer complaints within a reasonable time and providing consumer redress, if it is determined that the consumer was aggrieved by a violation of the policy statement, code or regulation or an unlawful trade practice, and
- Is in compliance with all orders directives, stipulations and agreements between the company or trade association and OCP.
Companies that have a Code of Ethics or other policy statement that meets the above criteria, may apply for one or more identification cards. If the application is accepted, OCP will issue a block of numbered ID cards to the company for use by their peddlers or solicitors.
The organization must maintain a control list of the individuals to whom they give the ID cards. If one of the company’s solicitors discontinues his/her activities, it is the company’s responsibility to collect the card and provide the Office with the information on the new holder of the card. If the company stops doing the business for which the cards were issued, it is the company’s duty to return the block of cards to OCP.
Applications and Fees
APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS AND FEES
To apply for a peddler’s or solicitor’s license, you will need:
- A completed application which can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to the address on the form.
- A copy of your driver’s license, or state issued photo ID card.
- The application fee.
- State or county issued licenses/certifications (*see below for specific details).
Registration period: ID Cards are valid from July 1 – June 30.
Application fees are as follows, and are non-refundable:
- Individual peddler’s/solicitors license: $100.00 each
- Applications received between January 1 and June 30: $50.00 each
Replacement cards: if lost or stolen, $5.00 each.
Companies with qualifying Code of Ethics:
- Completed application form which can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to the address on the form.
- $50.00 per ID card
- Must provide a copy of company Code of Ethics.
*Peddlers selling foodstuffs must provide certification with application as follows:
- Certification from the Howard County Health Department, contact: 410-313-1772
- Certification of vehicle inspection from the Howard County Fire Department, contact: 410-313-6014
- If selling on property owned by the State or County, a permit to sell on the right of way from that entity.
*Solicitors in possession of a Maryland state license, MUST provide copy of license from licensing board.
*Solicitors selling Energy Services – Must provide Maryland Contract Summary, which can be reviewed here.
Peddler and Solicitor Rules of Conduct
Effective April 11, 2016, Soliciting or peddling may be conducted within the County only between 9:00 a.m. and sunset except:
- the peddling of foodstuffs from a vehicle is permitted between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and
- charitable and non-profit solicitors (and other entities excepted from the law) are not subject to any restriction on hours of operation.
The holder of an ID must not represent, or in any way imply, that possession of an ID constitutes an endorsement by the County.
The holder of an ID card shall carry his ID card on his/her person while soliciting or peddling and shall display the ID card to any person who asks to see it. The card holder must leave the premises immediately upon request.
Along with the ID card, peddlers who use vehicles shall be issued a metal tag. This metal tag must be attached to the right side rear of the vehicle used in peddling and must be visible at all times.
Solicitors and peddlers must abide by Howard County law regarding non-transit activities that take place along Howard County roads. See below.
Under Maryland Law, door-to-door salespeople (those who make sales at a consumer’s home or from a location that is not the seller’s primary place of business), who sell goods costing $25 or more, must provide consumers with a right to cancel the sale, inform consumers of their cancellation rights, and explain their cancellation rights in writing as part of their sales contract. See Commercial Law §14-301 et seq. which gives the consumer three days to cancel most in-home contracts and five or seven days (depending on age) to cancel a home improvement contract.
Tips for Consumers
Individuals and businesses have a Constitutional right to go door to door, but State and County laws can regulate how door-to-door sales are conducted.
- In general, anyone who goes door-to-door in Howard County to offer or sell goods and services, take orders for the future delivery of goods and services, sell subscriptions to newspapers, magazines or other publications or request donations on behalf of charities or non-profit organizations are required to register with Howard County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP).
- People involved in voter registration activities, campaigning for public office or ballot questions do not have to register with OCP.
- When companies and individuals register with OCP they are given an ID card. Note that having an ID card does not mean that the seller (or the goods or services s/he is selling) has the “endorsement” of the County, only that s/he is registered with OCP.
- Solicitors are required to carry their ID card on their person at all times and are required to show it to anyone who asks to see it.
- Door-to-door soliciting is allowed only during the hours listed on the ID card.
- Door-to-door solicitors must leave a resident’s property when asked.
- Under State law, most contracts signed in your home are subject to the Maryland Door to Door Sales Act, Commercial Law §14-301 et seq. which gives the consumer three days to cancel most in-home contracts and five or seven days (depending on age) to cancel a home improvement contract.
Tips for Avoiding or Interacting with Door-to-Door Solicitors
- When a solicitor comes to your door, remember that person is only trying to do a job that they are legally allowed to do. If you are not interested in what the solicitor is offering, say so and politely ask them to leave.
- The simplest way to avoid door-to-door sellers is to simply not open your door. “No soliciting” signs can be helpful in deterring solicitors from knocking or ringing your door bell. Ignoring a “no soliciting sign” however, is not a criminal offense that is enforced by the police or other government agency.
- If you decide to talk with a door-to-door sales person, you should first ask to see their Howard County ID card. If they do not have the proper ID, ask the person to leave. You may report unregistered solicitors to the police or OCP.
- When considering an offer, don’t feel pressured to make a decision to purchase on the spot. Before making any major purchase, research the company and ask for references. Beware of any offer that sounds too good to be true and assume that any offer that is made on a “now or never” basis is fraudulent.
- When solicited by a charity or other non-profit organization, don’t give money on the spot. Request written information so that you can verify the legitimacy of the organization before donating money. Contact the Maryland Secretary of State at 800-825-4510 to verify that the exact name of the charity is authorized to do fundraising.
- Be especially wary of home improvement contractors who come to your home claiming that they are “doing work in your neighborhood” with "leftover materials." Such contractors often do not have valid home improvement licenses, or County IDs.
- If you decide to make a purchase that requires a contract, read the contract thoroughly before signing. Make sure that any statements, claims or promises made verbally are included in the written contract.
- Also make sure the contract contains a notice about your 3-5-7 day right to cancel under the Maryland Door to Door Sales Act, and a cancellation form you can use if you decide to cancel.
- If for any reason you feel threatened or are not able to get the salesperson to leave, call 911 for police assistance.
- If you would like to report an unregistered sales person, or get more information on shopping for home improvements or other goods or services, contact OCP by phone at 410-313-6420 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Non-Transit Activity on Howard County Roads
Howard County Code, Section 18.207 prohibits the sale or solicitation of goods, services or donations from the paved “right of way” of any Howard County roadway (including the median area) unless the sales or solicitations are made:
- By properly licensed solicitors or peddlers;
- On roads with a posted speed limit of 45 mph or less;
- At a location on the shoulder of the road that is at least 8 ft. from the edge line of the travel lane, and at least 100 feet from the nearest intersection or other point of ingress or egress; and
- Between 9 a.m. and sunset.
Registered peddlers or solicitors who comply with the above conditions may be ordered by the Police Department or the Department of Public Works to cease or relocate their activities if the activity impedes traffic or endangers the public.