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At parades, festivals, or other outdoor events, outdoor salespeople, known as “hawkers” or “peddlers,” are a common fixture selling anything from noise makers and holiday-themed hats to food and ice cream cones. These mobile vendors may move from town to town or from place to place in the same town selling their goods or merchandise, usually either by foot, in a cart, or by car.

In Massachusetts, hawkers/peddlers are required to be licensed with the Division of Standards (DOS). Licenses are valid for one year and are for individuals only, not for a group or business. If a group is operating, each member will have to apply for his/her own unique license. If you are engaging in food sales, you are also required to obtain a Health Certificate from the Board of Health of the town where you intend to sell. You must also have a Sales Tax Registration Number from the Department of Revenue.

There are special license applications with reduced fees for disabled military veterans and those with vision impairments.

Hawker/peddler applicants also need the Chief of Police from the city or town where the applicant resides to fill out the Certificate of Character at the bottom of the application page. A criminal record check may be required by your local Police. Licensees are encouraged to check with the Police Department where they intend to operate for any special rules, regulations, or restrictions before start selling as all licenses issued are subject to local rules and regulations.

For more information on hawker/peddler licenses, visit the DOS website or contact them at (617) 727-3480. The DOS also regulates the licensing of auctioneers, retailers of oil and motor fuel, transient vendors, motor vehicle damage repair shops and event promotors. In addition to licensing, the Division of Standards enforces standard accuracy requirements for commercial devices used in the weighing or measuring of any item sold by weigh, measure or count.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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