Selling through home visits has a bad reputation and it can be a difficult area in which to maintain and ensure quality. Many providers avoid it altogether. When properly regulated, however, home visits can be useful both to learners and providers, and for this reason are not excluded under ODLQC rules.
The suggestions below are intended to help providers maintain the highest standards in this area. None are mandatory to ensure compliance with ODLQC standards, but all are strongly recommended.
For clarity, we have used the word 'representative' to mean any person selling through home visits on behalf of a provider, and 'applicant' to mean a otential learner.
General good practice
• Providers should abide by the spirit of the Code of Business Conduct of the Direct Selling Association, drawn up in conjunction with the Office of Fair Trading, and should join the Association where practicable.
• All representatives should carry literature which includes the provider’s name, address and telephone number, so that an applicant can verify a representative’s identity.
• We prefer representatives to be salaried employees, and not paid on commission. If representatives are rewarded according to sales levels, additional safeguards should be in place, e.g. an extended cooling-off period in which the learner can cancel without penalty.
• The provider should routinely seek feedback from learners who enrolled after a home visit. This could be through questionnaires, telephone polling or other means independent of those who undertake or are responsible for home visits. The resulting information should be available to ODLQC or its assessors on request.
• All presentations should follow a pattern set in advance by the provider. The content should be determined by material supplied by the provider, e.g. a laptop presentation. Whatever the format of the presentation aids, they should be relatively hard for the representative to vary, and available for scrutiny by external assessors or the Council.
• If assessment exercises are used, their purpose should be made clear. Are they simply intended to help applicants decide which course is right for them, or does the provider decide who can take a particular course of study based upon the results?
• After the first home visit, applicants should be left with comprehensive information about the course, as set out in part (a) of the standards on admission procedures. This should be prepared centrally by the provider, and might be on paper, in a digital form, or online.
• Sufficient sample materials (and test papers, where appropriate) should be made available to allow the applicant to assess the suitability of the course for their needs. What constitutes sufficient will depend on factors such as the length and nature of the course, and the applicant’s particular requirements or concerns.
• Sales should not be completed on a single visit unless the applicant has had ample opportunity to assess the course in advance. This would include having had all the course information for a period of several days before the visit.
• All applicants should be made aware of ODLQC, and given our contact information (i.e. web or email address, or telephone number). We produce a Buyers Guide to Distance Learning which we encourage providers to distribute to all prospective learners, however they enrol.
• At the end of a home visit, applicants should be given the option to receive no further information or communications from the provider or its representatives.
• If the applicant still wishes to consider taking a course with the provider, they should be supplied with the name and contact details for both the salesperson, and with the provider’s central enquiry details. If the representative will visit again or make a follow up telephone call, this should be explained.
© ODLQC 1st March 2018