Since 1937, when the first Code of Advertising Practice was issued, ICC has produced, and successively revised, global sets of ethical rules, covering all main marketing disciplines. The ICC Code of Direct Selling forms part of that comprehensive ICC normative system.
In 2006 many of the marketing codes were consolidated into one document, the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice, revised in 2011. As direct selling is primarily a method of distribution, the Direct Selling Code remains a stand-alone document; however, by reference it is clearly linked to the Consolidated Code, which is the recognized global reference point for responsible marketing communications.
The ICC Code of Direct Selling was first published in 1978 and followed the already then well-established ICC policy of promoting high standards of ethics in marketing via self-regulatory codes, intended to complement the existing frameworks of national and international law.
Like its predecessor (2007), this edition has been developed in close co-operation with the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA). That has ensured the Code is based on the best available expertise, and kept apace with changes in practice and direct selling techniques. The WFDSA has also adopted a world code of conduct applicable exclusively to members of direct selling associations. There is conformity in substance between the ICC Code and the industry code. The ICC Code is to be followed by all involved in direct selling.
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.”
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 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.”