The MLM industry has, during the last 20 years, developed positive working relationships with regulatory agencies such as attorneys general and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). There was a time, however, back in the 1970s, when the FTC challenged the legitimacy of the direct selling industry as being a pyramid scheme. They accused Amway of operating illegally and Amway prevailed in a very famous 1979 case [below] where it was held that the network marketing industry is a legitimate business model and the business opportunity is not a pyramid scheme.

No legal ruling has been more impactful on the direct sales industry than The Landmark Amway Case.

Afterwards, regulatory agencies and the industry went quiet until the 1990s when it was questioned whether or not product-using consultants were a legitimate end-destination for products or whether consultants were simply retail customers. There has been an ongoing tug of war between the MLM industry and the FTC in terms of determining whether or not personal use should have an impact on a company’s legitimate operations. The industry, with the cooperation of attorneys generals in more than a dozen states, were able to amend legislation in those states to recognize that personal use of product by distributors is a legitimate end-destination, just as if it were a retail sale.

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No one can control all of the challenges that face the direct selling industry, but education and transparency is the best approach to discuss issues.

No one can control all of the challenges that face the direct selling industry, but education and transparency is the best approach to discuss issues.

We have a long-term perspective as a law office that has had three decades of experience in the MLM industry. In the last three years or so, developing trends have posed both opportunities and challenges for network marketing companies. Mr. Babener discusses a few of these opportunities and challenges (paraphrased from the DSWA interview with Nikki Keohohou) in this post.

As far as industry-wide opportunities are concerned, there has been an explosion in party plan companies. The party plan companies that we know and represent are doing quite well. There has been growth in the public recognition of these companies. This is due to large-scale events such as the 2009 Super Bowl where Avon was a primary sponsor. At the 2009 Super Bowl, Avon advertised their opportunity, not just their products, which was really a message to the country that our industry has something special to offer to everyone.

The internet has also helped push the industry in a positive direction in recent years. Social media and growing internet technology has enabled many companies to expand internationally.

However, this also means that the industry has a new challenge: coping with internet technology. Companies have to recognize the creative power of Facebook, Twitter and all of the other social media platforms. Companies have to find a balance between enabling their consultants the ability to be creative and protecting the brand. Protecting the brand presence in search engines, protecting against inappropriate medial/earnings claims and allowing consultants to work with social media, providing basic tools for distributors, are industry-wide challenges that require delicate balance.

In addition, we’ve seen some tension between new companies and distributors in recent years. There are some consultants who are too willing to jump ship and bounce from one company to another. Distributor raiding is undermining to the company and the opportunity, as well as to all of the consultants left behind.

On the other hand, we’ve seen some overreaching companies who’ve been bullying distributors, telling them what they can and cannot do. There will have to be a dialogue to figure out the common ground for what are reasonable expectations for distributors and what control companies can have over distributor actions.

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“Legal Hotspots for Direct Selling Companies.”

“Legal Hotspots for Direct Selling Companies.”

Nikki Keohohou with the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance (DSWA) hosts the Executive Interview Forum titled “Legal Hotspots for Direct Selling Companies.” The interviewee for this hour is Network Marketing Attorney, Jeff Babener, Editor of www.mlmlegal.com.

View the video on our website: mlmattorney.com or mlmlegal.com; or view it on Youtube.

In this hour-long video, Jeff Babener addresses network marketing industry topics such as:

–          Distributor raiding

–          Pyramid scheme

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