Saturday, March 25, 2023

When Ethics Trump All In Direct Selling

Direct selling, at its core, is a retail channel aimed at getting quality products and services into the hands of consumers.

However, to paraphrase the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, the business model isn’t only about customer sales. It’s also about the millions of entrepreneurial-minded individuals who have been empowered by direct selling to become their own bosses and prosper.

Regrettably, as popular as direct selling is and despite the boom it’s currently experiencing, accusations of scams continue to be levelled at the industry. And one of the biggest allegations is that the direct sales model is unethical and illegal.

But is it really?

There are, and always will be, unscrupulous companies and individuals that engage in shady behaviour and seek to lie and cheat their way to profits. Yet, what is also true is that direct selling has been around for hundreds of years, and as far as industries go, it continues to empower millions and spur economic growth to this day.

Most importantly, in terms of the biggest and best direct selling organisations, what is always evident is strict adherence to rules of conduct.

QNET, for example, has a comprehensive Code of Ethics — based on equally detailed Policies and Procedures — that all distributors are required to observe.

In fact, ethical and professional conduct are such important aspects of QNET’s approach to direct selling that the company has published a list of Red Lines — essentially 10 clear rules which should never be violated — to drive home their importance. Breaching these Red Lines can result in show-cause notices, suspension orders and even immediate termination.

What are QNET’s 10 Red Lines?

  1. Registering minors
  2. Lying about QNET, its business, or compensation plan
  3. Illegal transfer or holding Prospects against their free will
  4. Confiscating the passport or personal documents or phones of Prospects
  5. Forcing a Prospect to sign up as an IR / to purchase a product
  6. Cheating Prospects / Downlines
  7. Manipulating the registration process
  8. Establishing an IR office in violation of country laws or QNET rules
  9. Abusing the name of QNET
  10. Bringing QNET into any form of disrepute

These are among the areas that are constantly monitored by the company’s Network Compliance Department, and where QNET practises zero-tolerance.

Violations of the law

Not every business operates within the letter of the law. Indeed, there have been reported cases over the years of fly-by-night “companies” and individuals seeking to make profits in stark defiance of enacted legislation.

At QNET, however, the rules are clear — compliance with the law is mandatory.

Of course, not every country has specific rules and regulations for direct selling. So in those instances, QNET complies with the law in all other possible ways. This includes ensuring the company is registered, and its business taxes are paid.

Any and all illegal activity by distributors is also immediately followed by disciplinary action and termination of association with QNET.

Among the violations that distributors are especially warned against are recruiting minors; manipulating the registration process; holding prospective clients and downlines against their will; forcing prospects to sign up as distributors or purchase products; confiscating the personal documents or belongings of prospects and generally, cheating prospects and downlines.

Also prohibited is the setting up of IR offices in violation of either country laws or QNET rules.

Misrepresenting and miss-selling QNET 

Misrepresenting what QNET is about is also expressly forbidden.

One of the common misconceptions about QNET is that it is an investment or get-rich-quick scheme. This is untrue. And distributors are especially banned from making any such claim to that effect.

In point of fact, QNET’s training programmes — which distributors are expected to attend — make it clear that lying about QNET, its business, or its compensation plan is prohibited.

Representatives are, however, encouraged to familiarise themselves with all aspects of QNET’s business, specifically our Compensation Plan, and refer prospective downlines to our official policies with regard to how income is generated.

Exceeding authority

Although the fact has been noted numerous times in the past, it bears repeating that QNET’s distributors are not employees of the company. Rather, they run independent businesses affiliated with QNET.

That being the case, distributors are limited in their authority.

For example, distributors aren’t free to determine the prices of QNET products and services and are further disallowed from making claims regarding products and services that are not verifiable and sourced from official literature.

The reason for QNET’s firm stance in this aspect is simply down to the fact that if or when product- or service-related grievances arise, it is QNET, rather than the independent distributors, that takes full responsibility and deals with refunds and complaints.

Bringing the company into disrepute

As with most corporations, those speaking ill of QNET, spreading falsities and generally bringing the company into disrepute automatically warrant censure.

Nevertheless, QNET sets higher standards and obliges individual distributors to honour and respect their fellow professionals and peers.

For example, while the ruthless poaching of prospective downlines and customers from peers and competitors might be tolerated and sometimes even encouraged elsewhere, such behaviour is explicitly barred at QNET as it could give the company a bad name.

Ethics have remained an important part of QNET’s foundation. Indeed, it is one of the reasons — if not the main reason — that we as a company have weathered the storms and managed to survive for over 20 years in the industry. Furthermore, QNET actively places emphasis on providing training and all the necessary resources to distributors, so that they are guided accordingly when doing business.

With such standards and checks in place, how indeed can direct selling — and specifically QNET — be considered unethical?

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