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.
A Tribute to DSAS Founder, Mr. Benjamin B. C. Tan
Mr Benjamin B C Tan, an Accountant graduate from Sydney, Australia has a long and highly successful career as CEO in managing and developing leading international direct selling companies in Singapore – Malaysia – Brunei – Thailand – Philippines.
Benjamin is a highly esteemed and a long-standing member of the direct selling industry in Singapore. He is a founding member of the Direct Selling Association of Singapore (DSAS), which was formed in 1976. He was voted by his peers to fulfill the role of Chairman in 1998 and served with great distinction for seven years through to 2004. He was also the National Director of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations in Singapore during that period.
Benjamin has played a key role in opening the door for all legitimate Multi-Level Marketing companies to operate in Singapore. He was part of the task force, spearheaded by Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, which reviewed the Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2000 and Final Order, which was revised to the current Multi-Level and Pyramid Selling, (Excluded Schemes and Arrangements) (Amendment) Order 2001, which took effect on 1 January 2002. This in reality opens the door for all legitimate Multi-Level Marketing companies to operate in Singapore with confidence.
During Benjamin’s chairmanship, the DSAS Code of Ethics and Conduct was completed and implemented in June 2002. The Code is supported and recognized by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) as an industry effort to promote fair trading and consumer protection.
Further, he signed on 29 March 2003, a Memorandum of Understanding with CASE, in which DSAS would use CASE for mediation in consumer disputes and complaints against DSAS members.
In October 2005, Benjamin led a delegation to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) Board Meeting in London, which won the bid for the right to host the Direct Selling World Congress XIII – October 2008 in Singapore. This is indeed a prestigious and overwhelming vote of confidence for DSAS. In early 2006, Benjamin has conferred a prestigious status as an Honorary Member by DSAS in recognition of his visionary leadership, passion for the industry, and significant 30-year contribution to the growth and development of the Association.
In 2007, Benjamin was invited to assist in the setting up of an infrastructure for the Direct Selling industry in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in creating a pathway to establish a UAE-DSA. He was invited for 3 consecutive years from 2008 – 2010 to speak at the prestigious Dubai Direct Selling Festival Conference to provide a professional educational understanding of the industry’s Code of Ethics & Conduct.
Benjamin served actively as Honorary Member in the DSAS Executive Committee.