You might prefer to sort out your financial business in your own home, especially if you have the assistance of a salesperson whom you know and have done business with before. But a selling technique which you'll probably come up against from time to time is 'cold calling' - the uninvited visit or phone call from someone you don't know. For many people, having an uninvited salesperson in the living room is an unwelcome and even intimidating experience. Even an uninvited and unwanted phone call can be difficult to handle if you're not prepared in the last resort to be rude.

In general, financial matters are complex and you shouldn't be harried or hurried into making a deal. Unfortunately, cold calling of financial products isn't outlawed though it is restricted, and there are rules and codes of conduct aimed at preventing the worst abuses. But, because cold calling is a one-to-one technique witnessed normally by just the salesperson and customer, it's difficult for an outside authority to make absolutely sure that the rules are being followed. So it makes sense for you to be on your guard and prepared to complain if you're unhappy about a cold call made on you.

As far as investments go, this form of cold calling used to be restricted to life insurance. Sadly, the Financial Services Act extended this technique to unit trusts and many types of personal pension plan. Other types of investment can't be sold in this way, nor can most loans or credit.

WARNING Loans related to buying specific goods can be sold door-to-door, so a salesperson could legitimately call at your home and try to sell you a satellite dish for your television, or double glazing, say, on hire purchase or credit.

WARNING Where a loan isn't connected to buying something specific, a salesperson can't visit your home unless they've previously got your permission in writing to do so. Be careful that you don't unwittingly give your written permission when you sign a form for something else - for example, a request for further details or a quotation.

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Small Print

With some advertisements you'd need a magnifying glass to read all the details, so it can be all too easy to miss something important. There are some regulations regarding the relative prominence given to specific information. For example, the Consumer Credit Act requires that loan advertisements display the 'true' interest rate (Annual Percentage Rate - APR - see p. more prominently than any other interest rate and at least as prominently as various statements describing the loan. 'Prominence' encompasses not just the size of type, but other techniques also, such as use of colour, position and repetition.... see: Small Print

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