When you see that a company has been sent inquiries or investigative demands from regulatory agencies, it’s not always a good idea to jump to conclusions about the legitimacy of its operations.

When you see that a company has been sent inquiries or investigative demands from regulatory agencies, it’s not always a good idea to jump to conclusions about the legitimacy of its operations.

Part Two

The net result gave rise to the FTC amending its proposed rule to carve out an exception for direct selling/MLM companies. Direct selling companies would not be included in the rule. This was a victory for the network marketing industry since it didn’t want onerous rules inhibiting the more than 15-16 million people in the U.S. industry from operating a legitimate MLM business.

At this time, we are in a fairly good regulatory environment. Every direct selling company at any one time, however, is being sent questions of inquiry from regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general. This is simply part of doing business in this industry. So, when you see that a company has been sent inquiries or investigative demands from regulatory agencies, it’s not always a good idea to jump to conclusions about the legitimacy of its operations. The regulatory agencies are just doing their job.

In the end there is always a balance of regulation that needs to be reached. Direct selling companies do it best when they take some initiative on their own to promote consumer protection by looking out for both their consumers and consultants. The reason the FTC ratcheted back on the business opportunity is because of the large influx of comments that flooded in from industry leaders, including MLMLegal.com and the DSWA. Industry-leading groups have been able to mobilize large groups of people who are passionate about the network marketing industry which helps our industry and serves a great purpose.

MLMLegal.com keeps you updated on changes being made in the direct sales regulatory environment. Visit our network marketing news pages or MLMLegal.com for the latest information on the network marketing industry.

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Trademark of Herbalife

A Belgian appellate court declared December 3, 2013 that Herbalife is in fact operating in compliance with Belgian law, reports Yahoo! news. This ruling is in response to previous claims by the consumer organization, Test-Aankoop, that the international nutrition company was operating as a pyramid scheme.

Herbalife was established in 1980 and operates in over 75 countries. The company is the world’s fifth top direct selling company, with 2.7 million salespeople in roughly 79 markets, reports mlmlegal.com.

For additional information, read the following articles:

Herbalife:  Belgian Appeal Court: Herbalife is No Pyramid:  Validates Legitimacy: The Next Chapter in Recognition of Personal Use

**See a translated copy of the actual Belgian Court of Appeal Herbalife ruling.

Herbalife Statement Regarding Belgian Appeal Court Ruling

Herbalife: Belgian Court Overturns Pyramid Ruling

Herbalife says Belgian appeals court reversed pyramid scheme finding

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Jody (Coughlin) Greene argues in her Forbes article titled “Is MLM a Bad Word?” that MLM has had a bad reputation because its structure is similar to pyramid schemes and its negative image isn’t deserved.

Not only is network marketing a proven business, being one of the longest-running business models in the United States, but its marketing strategy has also proven successful. Distributors create income through their personal sales and the sales of those who they’ve recruited in their downline. Because of its pyramid-like structure, MLM has in some cases gotten a bad name.

Ms. Greene explains just some of the criticisms faced by network marketing companies:

Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes (hence the “scheme” reference), price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company’s products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members’ enthusiasm and devotion.

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Herbalife: What Short Sellers Missed on the Way to the Press Conference…

The Personal Use Issue in Pyramid Analysis; Who is an Ultimate User?

An excerpt from the article and link to the full article at www.mlmlegal.com

Déjà vu, all over again … Yogi Berra

History repeats itself.

The 2012 billion dollar short seller attack on Herbalife, a 32 year old NYSE listed direct seller of nutritional products in 80 plus countries with annual sales in excess of $3 billion, is akin to a replay of seminal challenge to the MLM/Direct Selling model, won by Amway in 1979. In the Matter of Amway, 93 F.T.C. 618 (1979).

In the 1970’s FTC challenge, the criticism went to whether or not the core of the MLM referral selling model was a “deceptive” way to market. In the 2012 short seller attack, along with other criticisms, a principal complaint is that evidence of “substantial personal use and consumption” of company products by distributors themselves, renders an MLM/Direct Selling model inherently deceptive and an illegal pyramid scheme.

Memo to short sellers and algorithmic financial bloggers:

It may be time to reassess.

Some very salient facts and cases may well have been missed in the rush to challenge direct sellers.

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This blog post is the companion post to the video: How to Tell if a Company is a Pyramid or a Legitimate MLM.

You may have been recruited for a network marketing opportunity or you are a recruiter. Inevitably, this question will come up, is the company a pyramid scheme or a legitimate business opportunity?

Although this is a complex legal area, let me share a simple metaphor that draws a clear line in the sand.

The metaphor is about a gentlemen, will call him Party #1, and he sells a case of canned tuna fish to Party #2 for $10. And, Party #2 sells it to Party #3 for $20, and Party #3 sells the case of canned tuna fish until it gets to Party #10, who buys the case of canned tuna for $500. And, Party #10 opens up the case of tuna fish and it’s rancid. It’s inedible.

He goes back to Party #9 and complains, “I bought this case of tuna for $500 and it’s rancid.” Party #9 tells him to take it to Party #8, and Party #8 tells him to take it to Party #7, and so on until Party #10 goes all the way back to Party #1 and says, “You’re the one who started all of this! I have a problem!”

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Interviewer: Jeff, let me ask you this question, what’s the difference between a legitimate direct sales opportunity and a pyramid scheme?

Jeff Babener: If you’re selling a product or service and it stands on its own in the marketplace and people would buy it because they want it, then you have a real, legitimate direct selling company. If on the other hand, the quality of the product is low, the price is high, then it merely becomes an excuse for people to buy the product because they want to qualify for the program in order to recruit others, make money, and earn commissions.

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The question below is taken from one of Mr. Babener’s client’s distributors’ Q&A pamphlets:

Q: My friends and relatives often ask me if direct selling/MLM/network marketing is a “real business”… I would like to give them something meaningful to consider … your take?

A: People have always asked that question… and it is a fair question. Keep in mind we have nearly 16 million people in the United States selling consumer products and services in the range of $30 billion and more than 90 million people around the world doing this with sales exceeding $150 billion. This activity penetrates the fabric of our society. Earlier statistics, presented by the Direct Selling Association, have indicated that, perhaps, one in ten households have somebody who is doing this part-time.

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Some clear criteria for legitimate direct selling/network marketing companies have long been recognized.

In determining whether a program is a legitimate direct selling/network marketing opportunity, the would-be participant should consider several important points:

  1. Goods or Service. Legitimate companies offer high-quality goods or services and guarantee consumer satisfaction. Goods and services must have a “real” demand in the marketplace, or an anticipated “real” demand if the good or service is just being introduced. Goods and services must have their own intrinsic value, such that distributors who purchase them would do so even if they were not involved in a network marketing business opportunity.

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It is true that, from time to time, because of the structure of network marketing plans, there has been confusion in the marketplace as to legitimate businesses versus illegal pyramid, headhunting, recruitment schemes.

The basic thrust of existing regulations is that direct selling/network marketing companies must be bona fide sales organizations which market bona fide products to consumers.

Pyramid Schemes:  Bad News…

Some pyramid activities which are prohibited or restricted include:

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People have always asked the question, “Is this industry for real?” “Is MLM a real option for individuals out there?” Keep in mind we have about 15-16 million people in the United States, and more than 60 million people around the world involved in MLM.  Statistics have indicated that perhaps one in ten households have somebody who is doing multi-level marketing part-time.  Again, 90 percent of the people who are in network marketing are looking for auxiliary income.  This isn’t the industry to be looking for a full-time job, although many people have been successful in that way.  What we noticed recently is a change in the industry.

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