“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” —Benjamin Franklin
Mr. Franklin’s words can be applied to any of his roles: newspaper publisher, inventor, postmaster, statesman and humorist. But his words have an especially keen meaning for DSA’s ethics and self-regulation program that has been a guiding force in direct selling for more than 40 years. Just as Franklin’s bifocals enable one to see farther as well as closer, DSA executives are engaged in examining the existing self-regulatory program and looking ahead to ways to ensure improvement.
Since the Code of Ethics’ creation, DSA has revised key elements, as well as expanded education initiatives and the Code Administrator’s office, to respond to direct selling’s ongoing evolution. As part of this scrutiny, the association has asked important questions regarding its self-regulatory program.
Does the program address the emerging market dynamics? How can we better protect against pitfalls that might arise from evolving technology? Does DSA’s self-regulatory program foster a productive dialogue between direct selling, law enforcement officials and the regulatory community? Does the program implement measures that ensure increased member company accountability and promotion of consumer protection?
DSA has convened a series of deliberations over the past year and half to answer these and other questions. The result has been a framework of a dramatically enhanced self-regulation program. It seeks to be comprehensive, meet consumer expectations and enable elevation of the direct sellers’ reputation with regulators, lawmakers and thought leaders.
DSA’s existing self-regulation is the foundation of the new 2018-2019 initiatives, including anticipated partnership with independent third-party organizations to ensure a robust, comprehensive, transparent consumer protection effort based on DSA’s productive dialogue with the Federal Trade Commission. Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen shared some characteristics of effective self-regulatory initiatives at DSA’s 2017 Fall Conference. She envisions clear, meaningful and fair standards that win industry support, together with adequately funded mechanisms that remain independent from industry members, supported by effective enforcement mechanisms, and that apply to the entire industry.
Details of the enhanced program will be developed by a working group of executives across the industry with input from the entire membership based on a series of design principles, which inform the program’s vision and trajectory. Guided by the insights from the consumer and law enforcement communities, these principles will include: clear industry standards on issues such as product and earnings representations, identification of relevant best practices from other self-regulatory models, and creation of a process that both monitors and enforces the Code of Ethics principles, raising the bar of excellence among DSA member companies with application to non-members. At the direction of DSA’s Executive Committee and Board, DSA is in early conversations with the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council/the Council for Better Business Bureaus (ASRC/CBBB) to explore ways to work with these entities’ long histories of self-regulation.
DSA will continue to engage the greater direct selling community as we chart the path ahead for a stronger self-regulatory program and continued growth and progress for the 21 million Americans involved in direct selling.
Joseph Aquilina is Ethics & Compliance Counsel for the Direct Selling Association.