Earlier this week, senior executives from a wide-range of industries spoke at the Direct Selling Association’s Fall Conference. They shared how they have implemented self-regulation frameworks that ensure a commitment to high ethical standards and consumer protection in their industries. This is also done while preserving a climate in which innovation can continue to thrive.
Before the panel, Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Maureen Ohlhausen echoed her remarks from DMA’s 2017 Dynamic State of Data event, touting the critical role that American industries play in enforcing ethical behavior on their own industries. “Effective self-regulation benefits everybody,” she said, noting that industry knowledge can help root out truly bad actors and make restrictive government regulation unnecessary.
Following Chairman Ohlhausen’s remarks, DMA’s SVP for Corporate & Social Responsibility Senny Boone spoke as part of a panel discussing industry self-regulatory frameworks. “We understand it is so vitally important to retain consumer trust and build customer loyalty,” she said, highlighting DMA’s 60-plus years of industry accountability.
Boone also walked through DMA’s coming refresh of its guidelines regarding data collection and use, titled Data Standards 2.0, which go into effect in July of 2018. “Our members are collecting and using data for a variety of reasons,” she shared. “Whatever hat they might be wearing, we ask them to take a look at what they’re doing in terms of their data practices.”
How do other industries handle ethical behavior concerns? For Lynne Omlie, speaking on behalf of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., she touted the strength of enforcement for her industry guidelines. “Our code is tough. It’s above any law or regulation and it’s beyond the First Amendment.” With alcohol, that’s understandable. The council’s guidelines have nine content provision categories, including prohibition or targeting underage people or the use of sexual content, and they work to resolve complaints within 60 days.
In the direct response industry, largely centered around infomercials, a great deal of focus is put into the legitimacy of the offer. Peter Marinello from the Council of Better Business Bureaus shared the story of one infomercial which offered claims of fast cash quickly. This was a violation of BBB’s rules, and the ad was quickly taken down. In fact, when Marinello tried to find the ad on YouTube to share as an example, it had even been removed there. For Marinello, that was the perfect example of a company supporting industry self-regulation.
“You can’t go into this half-heartedly,” he said. “You really need the whole industry fully supporting this. Everybody has to be behind this.”
Rend Al-Mondhiry, whose self-regulatory program through the Council for Responsible Nutrition has delivered over 300 in-depth decisions to date, said that there will always be some who criticize business practices. “Those critics have made up their mind about our industry,” she said. But industry self-regulation helps to “bolster” the industry’s argument, demonstrates positive consumer protections, and pushes back against those criticisms which are often unfounded.