(WASHINGTON D.C. – September 15, 2023) – The nonprofit Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) recently sponsored the “Building Trust in the Marketplace” conference at Emory University. The hybrid virtual and in-person event brought together leading academics, state and federal regulatory officials, consumer protection advocates and some industry representatives with expertise in key elements of building and sustaining marketplace trust.

The event was hosted by DSEF Fellow Dr. Sandy Jap, Professor of Marketing, Emory University and Dr. Kent Grayson, Associate Professor of Marketing, Northwestern University; participants explored issues related to ensuring a healthy marketplace with a particular focus on the direct selling retail channel, which has annual sales of $40 billion in the U.S. and over $183 billion worldwide. Conference sessions included a variety of views from university professors who study the channel, consumer protection advocates who have questioned some industry practices, regulators proposing new business regulations and experienced channel participants.

“This academic conference welcomed all points of view and involved some of the most esteemed academic minds in the country, “said Dr. Jap. “This kind of dialogue is vital to the development of good business practices and effective public policy.”

Direct Selling Association President Joseph Mariano added, “We are committed to a robust and fair exploration of the way direct sellers seek and build trust in the marketplace and to learning how we can build on our successes in creating trust with our customers and independent salespeople.”

Conference sessions explored important issues including:

  • Guardrails responsible companies must implement to ensure that consumers and salesforce are protected in voluntary business arrangements and customer interactions.
  • Pursuing effective and independent industry self-regulation as a complement to the appropriate role of federal and state regulatory bodies in protecting consumers.
  • Federal and state law enforcement views regarding their role in ensuring effective consumer protection.

DSEF Executive Director Gary Huggins added, “The participation of leading experts who study trust and its impacts in various disciplines including marketing, ethics, consumer behavior and entrepreneurship will also serve as a catalyst for further research and public discussion to drive improvements in performance and industry best practices.” Huggins concluded, “The Foundation will continue to engage with our academic partners along with other key leaders and advocates to advance these critical discussions.”


For more than 50 years, DSEF has partnered with members of the academic community to support research and education programs. These programs expand the knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of direct selling. The Foundation works with more than 200 professors in a variety of disciplines—such as entrepreneurship, marketing, ethics, consumer studies, business and economics—to develop direct selling-related academic research, case studies and teaching content. In 2022, direct selling generated more than $40.5 billion in retail sales in the United States. More than six million entrepreneurs in the U.S. are selling products or services through the direct selling channel, providing a personalized buying experience for more than 40 million active customers. Visit DSEF.org for more information.