As a member of the Direct Selling Association (DSA), Initial Outfitters is committed to the high ethical standards put forth by the association. The DSA Code of Ethics is a series of policies that every Direct Selling Association member agrees to follow as a condition of membership, and DSA members are held accountable to these policies. You can rest assured that we are holding ourselves to these standards here at IO, and that the information we put out there is accurate.
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Direct Selling Association Code of Ethics:
1. Deceptive or Unlawful Consumer or Recruiting Practices
a. No member company or independent salesperson for a member company shall engage in any deceptive, false, unethical or unlawful consumer or recruiting practice. Member companies shall ensure that no statements, promises or testimonials are made that are likely to mislead consumers or prospective independent salespeople.
b. Member companies and their independent salespeople must comply with all requirements of law. While this Code does not restate all legal obligations, compliance with all pertinent laws by member companies and their independent salespeople is a condition of acceptance by and continuing membership in DSA.
c. Member companies shall conduct their activities toward other member companies in compliance with this Code and all pertinent laws.
d. Information provided by member companies and their independent salespeople to prospective or current independent salespeople concerning the opportunity and related rights and obligations shall be accurate and complete. Member companies and their independent salespeople shall not make any factual representation to prospective independent salespeople that cannot be verified or make any promise that cannot be fulfilled. Member companies and their independent salespeople shall not present any selling opportunity to any prospective independent salesperson in a false, deceptive or misleading manner.
e. Member companies and their independent salespeople shall not induce a person to purchase products or services based upon the representation that a consumer can recover all or part of the purchase price by referring other consumers, if such reductions or recovery are violative of applicable referral sales laws.
f. Member companies shall provide to their independent salespeople either a written agreement to be signed by both the member company and the independent salesperson, or a written statement containing the essential details of the relationship between the independent salesperson and the member company. Member companies shall inform their independent salespeople of their legal obligations, including their responsibility to handle any applicable licenses, registrations and taxes.
g. Member companies shall provide their independent salespeople with periodic accounts including, as applicable, sales, purchases, details of earnings, commissions, bonuses, discounts, deliveries, cancellations and other relevant data, in accordance with the member company’s arrangement with the independent salesperson. All monies due shall be paid and any withholdings made in a commercially reasonable manner.
h. Independent salespeople shall respect any lack of commercial experience of consumers. Independent salespeople shall not abuse the trust of individual consumers, or exploit a consumer’s age, illness, handicap, lack of understanding or unfamiliarity with a language.
1. This section does not bring “proselytizing” or “salesforce raiding” disputes under the Code’s jurisdiction, unless such disputes involve allegations of deceptive, unethical or unlawful recruiting practices or behaviors aimed at potential salespeople. In those cases, the section applies. As used in this section, “unethical” means violative of the U.S. DSA Code of Ethics.
The DSA Code Administrator appointed pursuant to Section C.1 (“Administrator”) has the authority to make a determination of what is a deceptive, unlawful or unethical consumer or recruiting practice under the Code using prevailing legal standards as a guide. Compliance with any particular law, regulation or DSA Code of Ethics provision is not a defense to a determination by the Administrator that a practice is deceptive, unlawful or unethical. For example, in a sale to a consumer, compliance with the Federal Trade Commission Cooling-Off Rule does not prevent the Administrator from making a determination that a particular sales practice is deceptive, unlawful or unethical and that a refund or compensation is required.
2. Products, Services and Promotional Materials
a. The offer of products or services for sale by member companies and their independent salespeople shall be accurate and truthful as to price, grade, quality, make, value, performance, quantity, currency of model and availability. All product claims made by member companies and their independent salespeople must be substantiated by competent and reliable evidence and must not be misleading. A consumer’s order for products and services shall be fulfilled in a timely manner.
b. Neither member companies nor their independent salespeople shall make misleading comparisons of another company’s direct selling opportunity, products or services. Any comparison must be based on facts that can be objectively and adequately substantiated by competent and reliable evidence. Neither member companies nor their independent salespeople shall denigrate any other member company, business, product or service—directly or by implication— in a false or misleading manner and shall not take unfair advantage of the goodwill attached to the trade name and symbol of any company, business, product or service.
c. Promotional literature, advertisements and mailings shall not contain product descriptions, claims, photos or illustrations that are false, deceptive or misleading. (Promotional literature shall contain the name and address or telephone number of the member company and may include the telephone number of the individual independent salesperson).
d. Independent salespeople shall offer consumers accurate information regarding: price, credit terms; terms of payment; a cooling-off period, including return policies; terms of guarantee; after-sales service; and delivery dates. Independent salespeople shall give understandable and accurate answers to questions from consumers. To the extent claims are made with respect to products, independent salespeople shall make only those product claims authorized by the member company.
1. and 2. These sections cover communications about your own company or another company. For example, this section covers misleading statements made by an independent salesperson for company A about company B and/or its products to consumers or prospective independent salespeople.
3. Terms of Sale
a. A written order or receipt shall be delivered to the consumer at or prior to the time of the initial sale. In the case of a sale made through the mail, telephone, Internet, or other non-face-to-face means, a copy of the order form shall have been previously provided, be included in the initial order, or be provided in printable or downloadable form through the Internet. The order form must set forth clearly, legibly and unambiguously:
1. Terms and conditions of sale, including the total amount the consumer will be required to pay, including all interest, service charges and fees, and other costs and expenses as required by federal and state law;
2. Identity of the member company and the independent salesperson, and contain the full name, permanent address and telephone number of the member company or the independent salesperson, and all material terms of the sale; and
3. Terms of a guarantee or a warranty, details and any limitations of after-sales service, the name and address of the guarantor, the length of the guarantee, and the remedial action available to the consumer. Alternatively, this information may be provided with other accompanying literature provided with the product or service.
b. Member companies and their salespeople shall offer a written, clearly stated cooling off period permitting the consumer to withdraw from a purchase order within a minimum of three business days from the date of the purchase transaction and receive a full refund of the purchase price.
c. Member companies and their independent salespeople offering a right of return, whether or not conditioned upon certain events, shall provide it in writing.
4. Warranties and Guarantees
The terms of any warranty or guarantee offered by the seller in connection with the sale shall be furnished to the buyer in a manner that fully conforms to federal and state warranty and guarantee laws and regulations. The manufacturer, distributor and/or seller shall fully and promptly perform in accordance with the terms of all warranties and guarantees offered to consumers.
5. Identification and Privacy
a. At the beginning of sales presentations independent salespeople shall truthfully and clearly identify themselves, their company, the nature of their company’s products or services, and the reason for the solicitation. Contact with the consumer shall be made in a polite manner and during reasonable hours. A demonstration or sales presentation shall stop upon the consumer’s request.
b. Member companies and independent salespeople shall take appropriate steps to safeguard the protection of all private information provided by a consumer, independent salesperson or prospective independent salesperson.
6. Pyramid Schemes
For the purpose of this Code, pyramid or endless chain schemes shall be considered actionable under this Code. The DSA Code Administrator (appointed pursuant to Section C.1) shall determine whether such pyramid or endless chain schemes constitute a violation of this Code in accordance with applicable federal, state and/or local law or regulation.
6. The definition of an “illegal pyramid” is based upon existing standards of law as reflected in In the matter of Amway, 93 FTC 618 (1979) and the anti-pyramid statutes of various states. In accordance with these laws, member companies shall remunerate independent salespeople primarily on the basis of sales of products, including services, purchased by any person for actual use or consumption. Such remuneration may include compensation based on purchases that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in the program. See Section 9 for further clarification.
7. Inventory Purchases
a. Any member company with a marketing plan that involves selling products directly or indirectly to independent salespeople shall adopt and communicate a policy, in its recruiting literature, sales manual, or contract with an independent salesperson, that the company will repurchase on reasonable commercial terms currently marketable inventory, in the possession of that salesperson and purchased by that salesperson for resale prior to the date of termination of the independent salesperson’s business relationship with the company. For purposes of this Code, “reasonable commercial terms” shall include the repurchase of marketable inventory, promotional materials, sales aids, tools and kits within twelve (12) months from the salesperson’s date of purchase at not less than 90 percent of the salesperson’s original net cost less appropriate set offs and legal claims, if any. For purposes of this Code, products shall not be considered “currently marketable” if returned for repurchase after the products’ commercially reasonable usable or shelf life period has passed; nor shall products be considered “currently marketable” if the company clearly discloses to salespeople prior to purchase that the products are seasonal, discontinued, or special promotion products and are not subject to the repurchase obligation.
7a. The purpose of the buyback is to eliminate the potential harm of “inventory loading;” i.e., the practice of loading up salespeople with inventory they are unable or unlikely to be able to sell or use within a reasonable time period. Inventory loading has historically been accomplished by giving sellers financial incentives for sales without regard to ultimate sales to or use by actual consumers.
The repurchase provisions of the Code are meant to deter inventory loading and to protect distributors from financial harm that might result from inventory loading.
“Inventory” is considered to include both tangible and intangible product; i.e., both goods and services. “Current marketability” of inventory shall be determined on the basis of the specific condition of the product. Factors to be considered by the DSA Code Administrator (appointed pursuant to Section C.1) when determining “current marketability” are condition of the goods and whether or not the products have been used or opened.
Changes in marketplace demand, product formulation, or labeling are not sufficient grounds for a claim by the company that a product is no longer “marketable.” Nor does the ingestible nature of certain products limit the current marketability of those products. Government regulation that may arguably restrict or limit the ultimate resalability of a product does not limit its “current marketability” for purposes of the Code.
State statutes mandate that certain buyback provisions required by law must be described in an independent salesperson’s contract. While acknowledging that the contract is probably the most effective place for such information, the DSA Code allows for placement of the provision in either “its recruiting literature, sales manual or contract.” Regardless, the disclosure must be in writing and be clearly stated. Wherever disclosed, the buyback requirement shall be construed as a contractual obligation of the company.
A member company shall not place any unreasonable or procedural impediments in the way of salespeople seeking to sell back products to the member company.
The buyback process should be as efficient as possible and designed to facilitate buyback of products. The buyback provisions apply to all terminating independent salespeople who otherwise qualify for such repurchase, including independent salespeople who are not new to a particular company, or those who have left a company to sell for another company.
The buyback policy should be published in multiple locations and formats, and stated in a manner understood easily by a typical independent salesperson. It should be the goal of each member company to ensure that the typical independent salesperson is aware of the company’s buyback policy. Therefore, each member company should undertake its best efforts to ensure the effective communication of the policy.
b. The DSA Code Administrator appointed pursuant to Section C.1, upon finding a member company has engaged in false, misleading or deceptive recruiting practices, may employ any appropriate remedy to ensure any complainant shall not incur significant financial loss as a result of such prohibited behavior, including but not limited to requiring such member company to repurchase any and all inventory, promotional materials, sales aids and/or kits which a complainant has purchased.
8. Earnings Representations
a. The following shall be considered “earnings representations” under this Code:
1. Any oral, written or visual claim that conveys, expressly or by implication:
a) A specific level or range of actual or potential sales; or
b) Gross or net income or profits, including but not limited to representations that either explicitly or implicitly suggest that lifestyle purchases— including homes, vehicles, vacations and the like—are related to income earned.
2. Any statement, representation or hypothetical scenario from which a prospective independent salesperson could reasonably infer that he/she will earn a minimum level of income;
3. Any chart, table or mathematical calculation demonstrating possible income, actual or potential sales, or gross or net profits based upon a combination of variables;
4. Marketing materials or advertising explicitly describing or promising potential income amounts, or material- based lifestyles of independent salespeople;
5. Any award or announcement of compensation describing the earnings of any current or past salesperson. A company’s sales incentive awards, trips or meetings, and/or commissions, overrides, bonuses or other compensation, shall not be considered earnings representations unless they are accompanied by express indication of their value.
b. Member companies must comply with, and obligate their independent salespeople to also comply with, the following standards:
1. Earnings representations and sales figures must be truthful, accurate, and presented in a manner that is not false, deceptive or misleading.
2. Current and prospective independent salespeople must be provided with sufficient information to understand that:
a) Actual earnings can vary significantly depending upon time committed, skill level and other factors;
b) Not everyone will achieve the represented level of income; and
c) Such amounts are before expenses, if any.
3. Current and prospective independent salespeople must be provided with sufficient information to enable a reasonable evaluation of the opportunity to earn income.
4. If a specific independent salesperson’s commission or bonus payments are included in an earnings representation, any distributions made for those payments to others in the sales organization must be disclosed or deducted from the figure(s) used.
5. Any sales and earnings representations must be documented and substantiated. Member companies and their independent salespeople must maintain such documentation and substantiation, making it available to the Administrator upon written request.
6. Industry-wide—including DSA-produced—financial, earnings or performance information cannot be used as the primary source in documenting or substantiating a member company’s or independent salesperson’s representations. Such information can, however, be used in a general manner.
c. In assessing whether an earnings representation violates this section of the Code, the Administrator shall consider all relevant facts and information, including but not limited to the factors outlined in this section.
8. There is ample legal precedent in the form of FTC decisions to afford guidance on the subject of earnings representations. While not controlling, these precedents should be used by the Administrator in making determinations as to the substantiation of a member company’s earnings claims.
The Code’s simple prohibition of misrepresentations was intended, in part, to avoid unduly encumbering start-up member companies that have little or no actual earnings history with their compensation plan or established member companies that are testing or launching new compensation plans. The prohibition approach is meant to require that member companies in these circumstances need only ensure that their promotional literature and public statements clearly indicate that the compensation plan is new and that any charts, illustrations and stated examples of income under the plan are potential in nature and not based upon the actual performance of any individual(s).
9. Inventory Loading
A member company shall not require or encourage an independent salesperson to purchase inventory in an amount which unreasonably exceeds that which can be expected to be resold and/or consumed by the independent salesperson within a reasonable period of time.
Member companies shall take clear and reasonable steps to ensure that independent salespeople are consuming, using or reselling the products and services purchased.
It shall be considered an unfair and deceptive recruiting practice for a member company or independent salesperson to require or encourage an independent salesperson to purchase unreasonable amounts of inventory or sales aids. The Administrator may employ any appropriate remedy to ensure any individual salesperson shall not incur significant financial loss as a result of such prohibited behavior.
9. See, Code Explanatory Section 7a. regarding inventory loading. This provision should be construed in light of the regulatory admonition that commissions be generated by purchases that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in the program (see Federal Trade Commission 2004 Advisory Opinion Letter to DSA.) Member companies that implement procedures demonstrating that salespeople are purchasing the product for resale, for their own use/ consumption (i.e., “self-consumption”, “personal consumption” or “internal consumption”) or for other legitimate purposes will be better able to meet the requirements of Section 9. The Code recognizes this as a long-standing and accepted practice in direct selling and does not prohibit compensation based on the purchases of salespeople for personal use.
Further, the Code does not set forth specific standards or requirements that a minimum level of sales take place outside of the salesforce.
10. Payment of Fees
Neither member companies nor their independent salespeople shall ask individuals to assume unreasonably high entrance fees, training fees, franchise fees, fees for promotional materials or other fees related solely to the right to participate in the member company’s business. Any fees charged to become an independent salesperson shall relate directly to the value of materials, products or services provided in return.
10. High entrance fees can be an element of pyramid schemes, in which individuals are encouraged to expend large upfront costs, without receiving product of like value. These fees then become the mechanism driving the pyramid and placing participants at risk of financial harm. Some state laws have requirements that fees be returned similar to the repurchase provisions delineated in Code Section 7a. The Code eliminates the harm of large fees by prohibiting unreasonably high fees. The Administrator is empowered to determine when a fee is “unreasonably high.” For example, if a refund is offered for only a portion of an entrance fee, to cover what could be described as inventory, and there is nothing else given or received for the balance of the entrance fee, such as a training program, that portion of the entrance fee may be deemed to be unreasonably high by the Administrator. This Code section reinforces the provisions in Section B. Responsibilities and Duties requiring member companies to address the Code violations of their independent salespeople.
11. Training and Materials
a. Member companies shall provide adequate training to enable independent salespeople to operate ethically.
b. Member companies shall prohibit their independent salespeople from marketing or requiring the purchase by others of any materials that are inconsistent with the member company’s policies and procedures.
c. Independent salespeople selling member company- approved promotional or training materials, whether in hard copy or electronic form, shall:
1. Use only materials that comply with the same standards used by the member company,
2. Not make the purchase of such materials a requirement of other independent salespeople,
3. Provide such materials at not more than the price at which similar material is available generally in the marketplace, and
4. Offer a written return policy that is the same as the return policy of the member company the independent salesperson represents.
d. Member companies shall take diligent, reasonable steps to ensure that promotional or training materials produced by their independent salespeople comply with the provisions of this Code and are not false, misleading or deceptive.