Direct selling, as defined by the ICC Code, “refers to the selling of products directly to consumers, generally in their homes or the homes of others, at their workplace and other places away from permanent retail locations, where the direct seller may explain or demonstrate products.” Some well-known direct selling companies include Dell, Amway, Unilever, Tupperware and Avon.
The Direct Selling Code is an instrument for self-discipline, but may also be used by the courts as a reference document within the framework of applicable legislation. The ICC Code is also able to fill in the gap in countries which have not created direct selling laws.
The document was first published in 1978 and last revised in 2007, with this new version bringing it up to date with the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications Practice, revised in 2011.
The Direct Selling Code spells out responsible conduct towards consumers, such as the credo not to exploit a consumer’s age, that product demonstrations should be complete with regard to price and also covers recruitment practices in the direct selling industry.
Recent changes include a section on referral selling stipulating that consumers should not be induced to make a purchase based on the assumption of a reduced price for customer referrals. The ICC Code also requires that direct selling companies communicate the contents of the Code with their direct sellers and that compliance with the standards of the Code should be a condition for membership in the company’s distribution system. In keeping with the principle of truthfulness, the ICC Code specifies that “descriptions, claims, illustrations or other elements relating to verifiable facts should be capable of substantiation.”
The document will replace the existing ICC Code and will be made available to direct sellers through the ICC and WFDSA networks.