OREM — No matter how good the cleaner, or how tasty the chocolates, the person trying to sell them at your doorstep better have a license or you can report them to police.

The Orem City Council recently approved an ordinance updating the city's door-to-door solicitor code, adding on the potential of misdemeanor charges for those who thumb their nose at the rules.

"The ordinance prohibits unregistered solicitation, (and says that) anyone who wants to go door-to-door selling a product must have approval and be certified to do so," said Orem City Attorney Mike Barker.

About two years ago, Orem and numerous other Utah cities were sued by distributors and dealers of Kirby vacuum cleaners for having door-to-door solicitor ordinances that were too strict.

During the litigation, Orem repealed its ordinance. Now that the lawsuit has been settled, city officials decided to create another ordinance, with a goal of protecting residents from unwanted intrusions, fraud and deceptive and high-pressure sales practices, Barker said.

During 2006 and 2007, the police responded to 40 complaints regarding door-to-door solicitations, Barker said. Those complaints ranged from aggressive solicitors to people refusing to leave the doorstep. Others wouldn't show a business license, and some asked suspicious personal questions.

The community expects "that those people who come knocking on your door to sell a product have at least gone through some background check with the city to show that they would meet certain criteria of trustworthiness and don't have criminal convictions in their past," Barker said. "As much as we would expect from a local business who wants to open up a brick-and-mortar (shop)."

Applicants must provide business information and a background check as well as any details about previous convictions involving fraud or moral turpitude, Barker said. Along with a $25 application fee, solicitors must also provide a tax ID number and proof that they are in good standing with the Utah Department of Commerce.

Once all the paperwork is done, the city has three days to approve or deny the application, though most applications should be approved sooner than three days, Barker said.

Approved solicitors then get a badge to "wear prominently when they do their soliciting (to) explain why they're on the doorstep," Barker said. Those without badges or those who overstep their boundaries can be reported to the police for misdemeanor violations.

But what about young Boy Scouts selling popcorn? asked Orem resident Sue Smith, who came with her two young Scouts.

Scouting groups, school clubs, religious and charitable organizations are exempt from the ordinance, Barker clarified. So is a neighbor who goes around talking to people about political candidates and raising money for a campaign.

Even a neighborhood door-to-door rally to raise money for an ailing resident would be exempt.

Door hangers are still OK, but face-to-face business-related contact would most likely fall under the ordinance, Barker said.

However, Orem residents still have the option to avoid all door-to-door sales by putting up a "No Soliciting" sign on their house.


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