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Lehi considers new restrictions on solicitors

Published: Saturday, March 9 2013 11:23 p.m. MST

The Lehi City Council is considering an ordinance that would require salespeople to pay $50 for a door-to-door solicitation license and could adopt it as early as next week.

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LEHI — Lehi has a message for overly aggressive solicitors: Not interested.

The Lehi City Council is considering an ordinance that would require salespeople to pay $50 for a door-to-door solicitation license and could adopt it as early as next week. The measure would also require solicitors to pass a criminal background check and carry photo identification on their sales calls to qualify for a license.

Solicitation hours would be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“People have a reasonable right to feel safe and go about unaccosted,” said Lehi City Councilwoman Kaye Collins. “If solicitors wear a badge, it tells residents who they are and that they work for a legitimate business.”

Several cities in Utah County have adopted strict regulations on solicitors in recent years. American Fork tightened the reins in 2008 after a salesman sexually assaulted a woman in her home, and in January Provo criminalized soliciting at traffic lights and pursuing a sale after a resident’s initial refusal.  

But some proponents of door-to-door sales say such restrictions do more to villainize an honest business practice and jeopardize freedom of speech than protect residents.

“These restrictions are excessive, but they’re also very typical,” said Tony Hoty, who runs his own Web-based sales training and works with clients around the country. “In a lot of cities, it’s a preconceived notion, almost to the point of paranoia, that solicitation is (a serious problem). You shouldn’t need a license when all you’re saying is, ‘We just opened up down the street, here are some coupons, come check us out.'” 

Hoty insists that crime associated with door-to-door sales is rare.

“There’s no correlation between a neighborhood being canvassed and break-ins,” Hoty said. “If people are going door to door in broad daylight and introducing themselves to the world, advertising their identity to neighbors, why would they do that?”

However, Lehi City Councilman Stephen Holbrook says that the city’s consideration isn’t reactive.

“It’s something that hadn’t been looked at for a few years,” Holbrook said. “This wasn’t because of a particular incident. … It just helps to show to us that (solicitors) have gone through the due process to become qualified.”

Collins says that besides a regard for safety, residents should ask to see identification so they can be confident about where their money is going. The proposed law, she says, wouldn’t exempt residents from using their own due diligence.

“Businesses and people who want to break the rules will try to break the rules,” Collins said. “Are we going to catch 100 percent? Probably not, but it’s worth it to try.”

Collins is also pushing for a restriction on solicitors entering garages and backyards to contact the homeowner.

“They need to go up to the front door and knock,” Collins said. “I just feel that’s the way to do business properly.”

The ordinance is expected to include exceptions for religious and charitable organizations. 

E-mail: blockhart@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @benlockhart89

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