3-day rule may help if you change your mind on purchase

The 3-day cancelation or cooling off rule is probably one of the most misunderstood consumer protections out there.  

People often think it can be used to return or cancel any and all purchases.

The reality is that the rule can only be used in very specific situations.

According to Felicia Thompson with the Better Business Bureau, situations include transactions conducted inside of your home,

"If someone comes to your door and you purchase a magazine, you technically as a consumer,  have the right to cancel," said Thompson.

But the purchase must be more than $25 and you have to have contacted the seller in writing by midnight of the 3rd business day. Keep in mind Saturday, is considered a business day.

The 3-day rule can also apply to sales made outside of your home, like fairs, festivals, and convention halls. These are spaces where you may not be in a position to read the fine print of what you are actually signing up for, and this rule gives you a few days to change your mind.  

The cooling-off period does not apply to car deals, real estate transactions and time shares. Also, you can't claim this protection for online purchases, if you sign something waiving that right, or for transactions at the company's permanent location. Click here to see additional times when the rule does and does not apply.

To cancel a sale you have to act quickly. If your request is not officially received or postmarked by midnight of the third business day, you could be out of luck. The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending a certified or hand delivered letter to the business. They have 10 days to respond.

The policy won't work in every situation, but it's important to know what the rules are and how to make them work for you.

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