In the early 70’s and especially during the aftermath of the ‘Holiday Magic’ cosmetic debacle, when many Singaporeans lost their money including life savings to invest in cosmetics they could not re-sell, the Singapore authorities and Institutional Member of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) looked upon direct selling especially the multi-level marketing schemes with disapproval.
Compounding the situation was the deluge of complaints to CASE and the media from dissatisfied consumers against high-pressure sales tactics used by salesmen especially those engaged in door-to-door sales of pots and pans, encyclopedia, vacuum cleaners and other products to achieve their sales targets. False promises were often made without due regard to the consequences. Sales people were moving from one company to another and so they were not there to solve the problems they created with the customers. CASE had the mass media on its side and was constantly advocating a ban on door-to-door sales. The timely formation of DSAS helped to avert such a drastic move.
The authorities could see that the founding members were responsible and reputable organisations. DSAS’ first task was to gain the confidence of CASE and during our inaugural dinner on 28 Feb 1977, DSAS Founder Chairman openly declared the Association’s stand against high-pressure sales tactics and other form of malpractice. DSAS promised to work closely with CASE in eliminating all forms of malpractices in the marketplace. We argued that self-regulation was the better way to tackle such problems and we were fortunate that the Authorities accepted our suggestion. We introduced a Code of Ethics and made it compulsory for every member company to adhere to it strictly.
Subsequently, DSAS introduced a 7-day cooling -off period during which time a prospective customer may cancel his contract without penalty. Through various measures including enlisting the help of US DSA and the US suppliers of merchandise to the local companies, the number of complaints received by CASE declined significantly until the frequency became isolated cases. Since then DSAS has had an excellent working relationship with CASE in spite of the several changes at the top echelon in CASE.
DSAS also liaises closely with the Commercial Affairs Division of the CID and seek their views whenever necessary.
Our standing in the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations enabled us to out-bid the combined effort of the Australian and New Zealand DSAs to host the Sixth World Congress in 1987. Although our Association was and still is a small one in terms of membership and has no full-time Executive staff to manage its affairs, the DSAS received overwhelming support from delegates who cast their votes in our favour.
The once-in-every-3 years event was the first ever held in Asia and we were proud to have played hosts to it with the support from the Singapore Tourist Board, Singapore Airlines, the Westin Hotels and others. The attendance was a record then and the event made more money for the WFDSA than any other previous World Congress even though our registration fee was much lower than those charged previously. The Singapore Police Band provided the stirring opening number.
The founding Chairman of DSAS held the post of Vice-Chairman for Southeast Asia (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) for 3 consecutive terms of 3 years each. The Chairman was also directly involved in the formation of the Thai and Indonesian DSAs and assisted in the establishment of the Malaysian DSA.
In 1996 DSAS jointly with the USDSEF (US Direct Selling Education Foundation) and supported by CASE (Consumers Association of Singapore) organised the ASIA PACIFIC CONSUMER CONFERENCE from May 5 to 7. The event was graced by the Chairperson of the WFDSA and the President of CASE.
In 1991 DSAS organised a seminar entitled “DIRECT SELLING – WHAT’S LEGAL, WHAT’S NOT” and the Guest-of-Honour was Mr Zulkifli Mohamed, Political Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Chairman, GPC for Law and Home Affairs.
For many years, DSAS had been making representations to the Singapore Authorities to amend the Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act and before the recent changes were gazetted, DSAS had been in consultation with Officials from the Ministries concerned. The recent changes will serve in the interest of all legitimate direct selling companies.