Fayetteville adopts new door-to-door sales law

Photo: DWDesign8

Beginning Aug. 2, door-to-door salespeople must adhere to new regulations in Fayetteville.

City Council members on Tuesday passed an ordinance requiring for-profit businesses to pay $40 each year for a permit and $5 for each door-to-door solicitor working inside the city limits.

City law already outlaws door-to-door sales if a property owner displays a “no soliciting” sign on their home or business. That rule will stay the same, but the new ordinance requires city planning staff to provide free “no soliciting” stickers to any resident who requests one.

Ward 3 Alderman Justin Tennant brought forth the idea, which he said should help curb a growing number of complaints from Fayetteville residents who are tired of being approached by door-to-door scam artists.

The University of Arkansas Police Department last month released a statement warning residents that a group of young people were in town claiming to be selling items to raise money for university trips and internships. Police warned residents not to fall for the scam.

“I feel like many of our citizens are being taken advantage of,” said Tennant. “What I wanted to do here was put up a door, so to speak, to discourage these people from actually coming into the city and doing these things to our citizens.”

As part of the new law, salespeople are now subject to a criminal background check from the Arkansas State Police and are required to carry a visible photo ID and a copy of their company’s door-to-door permit. Violations would carry a fine of up to $500.

Federal law won’t allow cities to completely ban door-to-door solicitation in order to preserve First Amendment rights. Because of this, aldermen made exceptions to the permit and background check requirement for religious and political groups exercising free speech, certain nonprofits like Girl Scouts who are selling cookies, and for children through their senior year in high school.

“I don’t think many of the folks we’re trying to stop here are school-age children,” said Tennant.

Tennant first proposed the idea of a sales cut-off time of 7 p.m., which he said received “overwhelmingly positive” support for.

“The only complaint I got was from the newspaper,” said Tennant.

Brian Smith, circulation sales manager with Northwest Arkansas Newspapers, said nearly half of the newspaper’s door-to-door subscription sales occur between 5 and 9 p.m. and that subscription sales would drop by about 25 percent if sales staff couldn’t work past 7 p.m. Northwest Arkansas Newspapers owns the Northwest Arkansas Times, Springdale Morning News, Rogers Morning News and Benton County Daily Record.

Aldermen eventually agreed to move the cut-off time to 9 p.m.

The ordinance passed 7-0. Ward 1 Alderwoman Adella Gray was absent for the meeting.