The claim is that Truth In Advertising (TINA) protects consumers. But TINA seems to have been stung by the same cynical bug that has afflicted Washington D.C. politics, and decided to criticize the individual direct sellers — consumers or independent contractors — who took the time to have their voices heard in the halls of Congress. So much for Mr. Smith goes to Washington.
It’s really too bad more people could not meet and speak with the real direct sellers who took the time to come to Washington for Direct Selling Day. All that the individual direct sellers wanted to do was be a part of the Democratic process. Shouldn’t that be encouraged and celebrated?
If someone from TINA had been there, I have no doubt they would have seen and appreciated the excitement, passion and joy of these folks as they spoke to members of Congress to share their personal experiences. They would have seen and heard stories from military spouses who enjoyed direct selling as a portable business, mothers and fathers who wanted the freedom and flexibility to earn money while spending time with their families, millennials with no college education who just got involved because they loved the product and single parents initially seeking supplemental income. Had TINA been with us, they would have heard that the real story of direct selling was about so much more than earning money.
Direct selling is not without its issues. It’s hard to imagine how the Direct Selling Association addresses the real and perceived problems that do sometimes occur when you have literally millions of people running their own small “microentrepreneurial” businesses, as we do in direct selling. Therefore, it is not widely known that DSA has spent its greatest resources in recent years on making sure that our Code of Ethics, which requires companies to buy back inventory from anyone who leaves the business and limits unreasonable earnings claims (among other protections), is available to help individual consumers and salespeople when there is a problem. We know that is not enough.
That’s why we have just this year initiated a partnership with the CBBB for comprehensive monitoring of social media, online activity and the market for any signs of unreasonable product or income claims — not just by DSA members but any direct selling company or their salespeople. This nationwide monitoring is designed to seek out and identify possible problems, before anyone has a bad experience. Literally, hundreds of thousands of websites and posts have already been monitored. That system, which is entirely independent of DSA or any control by direct selling companies, has already established a strong track record of success in having companies identify and correct any possible problems, especially those that might be caused by overzealous salespeople. And the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council is just getting started.
What you should know is that DSA is committed to addressing any problem that a consumer or salesperson might have and that we urge anyone with questions or concerns to share with us how we can help.
Joseph N. Mariano is the President of the Direct Selling Association.
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