On 11 May 2011, the Direct Selling sector became the first sector in Europe with a true European Ombudsman, or mediator. On that date, Seldia, the European Direct Selling Association, appointed a mediator, Professor Jules Stuyck, to deal with complaints of consumers who would otherwise have nowhere to go due to the potential international aspects of their transactions.
“We are very pleased with the forward looking approach of our 27 member associations,” says Seldia Executive Director Maurits Bruggink. “Ethical trading has always been a top priority for our industry, but the appointment of a European mediator has given our policy some teeth. It will guarantee European consumers a dispute resolution service for every transaction. This will become even more important with the further development of a European Single Market for direct selling, which will lead to more transactions with a cross-border dimension.”
The consumer is advised always to address complaints first with the company involved, then with the local direct selling association (DSA). However, this may not always be possible, for example when a company is not a member of the local DSA. In such case, if a consumer cannot solve the complaint with the company, they could address it to the Seldia mediator. The mediator would deal with the complaint if the company is either a member of Seldia or a member of any national DSA that is a member of Seldia.
“We also offer dispute resolution to the other parties in direct selling transactions: direct sellers, direct selling organisations, DSAs and even consumer groups,” explains Maurits. “We have seen instances in the past where a company or distributor was acting in a country without respect of the Seldia Code of Ethics and by doing so, was harming the sector as a whole in that country. Our mediator service is where a local DSA can submit a complaint against such company. The Seldia mediator will pick up this complaint and address this with the company involved.”
The European mediator will not only deal with complaints, but also promote the implementation of the code by DSAs and companies and make consumers across Europe aware of the rights that the Code gives them and how they should address complaints. “For example, we must educate companies, also the smaller ones, to appoint a ‘code responsibility officer’ to deal with complaints,” continues Maurits. “At an industry conference I attended earlier this year, the obligation to appoint such person seemed to be rather unknown to many companies! We must also make sure that national mediators do not only exist as a name on the website of a local DSA, but are actually working effectively.”
The new Seldia website, http://www.seldia.eu, dedicates a whole section to the subject of ethics, which informs the European consumer what to do in case of a complaint and offers direct access to the European mediator. Prof. Jules Stuyck will speak on September 21 at the Seldia Annual Round Table Meeting on Direct Selling in Warsaw on the subject of self-regulation.