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Retail brands back campaign for codes of conduct for direct sales operators

URGENT and more widespread adoption of industry Codes of Conduct is the aim of a new campaign led by the UK industry body for direct-to-consumer retail.

D2C brands have united behind the calls from the Direct Selling Association to action to prevent rogue operators from taking advantage of the cost of living crisis.

The campaign follows a significant growth in earnings by people working as independent consultants for direct to consumer retail brands in recent months. Monthly earnings increased by 73% to £833 last year – thought to be the biggest annual increase in earnings in over a decade.

The DSA’s director general Susannah Schofield (main picture) said: “This form of earning is an increasingly attractive way for people to boost their income as the cost of living crisis continues to be felt acutely across the UK.

“While this is a hugely positive development for retailers in an otherwise somewhat gloomy economic outlook, it also presents the potential for disreputable brands and rogue operators to take advantage of the situation and cause huge reputational damage to the wider industry, and we are keen to do everything we can to prevent this.”

Direct selling is a £1 billion-a-year channel of retail where products are sold directly to consumers outside of a fixed retail environment. This could be via ‘Tupperware-style’ parties face-to-face, online or through catalogue distribution. Individuals act as independent salespeople and earn through commission paid on product sales. In the UK approximately 500,000 people earn this way, usually on a part-time basis, to supplement household income.

Membership of the DSA, whose head office is in Northampton, is only granted to companies that have satisfactorily undergone a full audit process that can take up to a year. A rigorous examination of an organisation’s business practices, policies and processes are undertaken to check compliance with industry Codes of Conduct.

Well-known D2C brands such as Avon, The Body Shop, Usborne Books and Ann Summers are signed up to Codes of Conduct which go above and beyond UK consumer law to offer higher levels of protection to both customer and independent sales representatives, Ms Schofield said.

“However, there still remain a large number of companies in the UK that have not done so and it is these companies that we are targeting to encourage them to do so as a matter of urgency,” Ms Schofield added. “It is therefore vital that there is far greater – and urgent – adoption of Codes of Conduct by the many reputable and innovative brands who are selling direct to consumer who are yet to sign up to these Codes.”

The DSA is also lobbying the government on the issue.

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