Success is about results. And results are frequently measured by numbers. I thought it helpful to look at some of the numbers surrounding DSA’s self-regulatory program—the Direct Selling Regulatory Council (DSSRC).
This program, established in 2019, is operated under the auspices of the Better Business Bureaus National Programs and works in tandem with the DSA Code of Ethics to help ensure consumers and salespeople can have the utmost confidence in direct selling.
DSSRC independently monitors earnings and product claims disseminated by all members of the direct selling community, regardless of a company’s DSA membership status.
- From January 1, 2021 through July 31, 2021, alone, the Council monitored 585,908 unique URLs and identified nearly 46K potential incidents involving health-related product claims and business opportunity/lifestyle claims on social media and video platforms.
- DSSRC opened a total of 122 inquiries; 331 product claims; and 378 business opportunity and earnings claims comprised these inquiries.
- Of that year’s inquiries, 39 were COVID-19 related; 66 product performance claims and ten claims discussing the pandemic as an earnings opportunity comprised these inquiries.
- Because direct selling companies discontinued or significantly modified the claims at issue, 87 of the 122 inquiries have been or are being administratively closed.
- Of the 122 inquiries initiated, all but two originated from DSSRC monitoring, with those two cases being brought to Council’s attention by non-governmental organizations.
- During the life of the DSSRC, 15 cases referred to government agencies for non-response/non-compliance with inquiries.
Robust, consequential numbers indeed. But numbers alone don’t measure results, especially when channel and company reputation and credibility are being measured.
And while the Association’s commitment to self-regulation is long-term, we are already seeing some of the results of this vital effort in public and policy maker recognition. To wit:
- The DSSRC was honored last June with the “Best Sectoral Initiative Award” by the International Council for Advertising Self-Regulation (ICAS). The honor was bestowed upon DSSRC because the program’s outcomes not only met the award’s highest bar of achievement in terms of tangible results and relevance, but also for how DSSRC encourages ethical and responsible marketing and advertising practices.
- Were it not for the testimony of Mary Engle, Executive Vice President, Policy, BBB National Programs, Inc., who spoke from a position of authority on self-regulation before the United States Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, United States Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) would have been less likely to laud the DSSRC during that same hearing.
Direct selling industry leaders recognize that our collective investment, through DSA, in the DSSRC and the DSA Code of Ethics has the potential for an even broader, longer-term effect on the reputation of direct selling.
No less important, policy makers, regulators and the press keenly observe our efforts to address real and perceived issues in the direct selling market, especially related to earnings claims. DSA will continue to demonstrate our member companies’ commitment to ensuring the highest level of business ethics.
To view a copy of the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC) 2021 Year-End Program Activity Report, please visit DSA.org.
JOSEPH N. MARIANO is the President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.