BBB National Programs Insights

What You Should Know about the Direct Selling Industry


During this year’s National Consumer Protection Week – a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money -- BBB National Programs is sharing information about our programs and services to promote a better understanding of consumer protection in the direct selling industry.  

What is direct selling and what should you, as a consumer, know about this industry?

Direct selling is a business model where individuals, acting as independent contractors, market and sell products and services through one-to-one selling, in-home product demonstrations, or online. As a direct selling salesforce member, you may be called a distributor, representative, consultant, or similar title. How much you earn is based on how much you sell, and sometimes on how much others in your sales organization sell.

Direct selling companies may promote the benefits of being a salesforce member of their business, such as flexible hours, working from home, and the opportunity to earn extra income. Income claims may be suggested by depictions of a particular lifestyle, such as lavish vacations and expensive cars. However, consumers should do their research to better understand the income goals and expectations for the industry before becoming involved with a particular company or industry.

BBB National Programs’ runs the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), an independent program that helps support accountability and consumer protection in the direct selling industry. The DSSRC’s role is to help ensure that direct selling companies are making truthful, accurate claims about the products they sell and about the opportunity to earn income with the business. The DSSRC program also provides impartial and comprehensive monitoring of direct selling companies on an industry-wide basis. Our program addresses income representations (including lifestyle claims) and product claims by companies and salesforce members, including claims made in social media. That’s important because before you invest in a direct selling business, you want to be sure that the company can back up the claims it makes for its products, as well as its claims about how much income you will be able to earn.

During National Consumer Protection Week, you can learn more about whether a direct selling business is right for you: check out the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer consumer tips for going into business. Read more about the DSSRC program and its work to strengthen the direct selling industry.