Verbal contracts can be risky at the best of times but when they involve elderly people, much more care is required.
This was highlighted when the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reported on Saturday that an 83-year-old Tauranga woman was left stressed and in tears after dealing with a telecommunications company.
Claire Acott told this newspaper she thought she had agreed to being sent information about switching her phone line from Telecom to Compass Communications but returned home one night to find the switch had been made.
Upon hearing there had been some confusion, Compass Communications listened to the recorded verbal contract and confirmed that she clearly agreed to the switch.
To have the phone switched back was going to cost Mrs Acott $100.
The unfortunate thing here is that Age Concern Tauranga chairwoman Angela Scott says the story is not uncommon.
While Mrs Acott may have agreed to the service, companies that make cold-call sales pitches must do everything in their ability to ensure their potential customer is fully aware of what they are agreeing to - especially if they are elderly.
These companies often rely on approaching potential customers to get new business but they should show care and restraint when doing so.
Mrs Scott offers the best advice - if people haven't actually asked for the service, say no straight away.
It is common to feel pressured by salespeople striving to reach their targets but in reality, these offers are the easiest to turn away.
No one should feel obliged to stay on the line or agree to a contract with which they are not entirely comfortable.
Age Concern and other advocacy groups do a wonderful job of looking after the elderly but family and friends are also in a position to help protect the most vulnerable in our community.
Mrs Acott's case was a case of genuine mistake. But as this newspaper has published before, sinister phone scams are all too prevalent and the elderly can unfortunately make easy prey.