pyramid scheme india: The Enforcement Directorates case against Amway and past controversies involving the company

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Posted: Thu, 02 Mar 2023 08:00:00 GMT [source]

Though direct selling is allowed in India, there is a prohibition for business models based on pyramid schemes or money circulation schemes. In 2014, Amway’s India CEO William S Pinckney was arrested on charges of cheating and other financial fraud and jailed in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. Charges were framed against him under section 420 of IPC and sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes Act 1978.

What are Ponzi vs. Pyramid Schemes?

Pyramid scheme is a business model that recruits or engages members with a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, instead of sale of products or services. Channel 31 reported that in Karaganda region one person had to undergo treatment after joining Qnet. In Conakry, Guinea, 100 people were arrested for involvement with Qnet. In Sierra Leone investigations of Qnet were demanded by IRs claiming they had been defrauded. In Senegal a dozen IRs were arrested along with two company executives. In a public press conference, the Director, National Agency of Financial Investigations in Chad declared Qnet as a criminal enterprise and asked the public to remain vigilant.

But the individuals have been buying the high-cost products not to use them but to become rich through membership as has been showcased by the initial investors. Now each of those 100 new recruits must pay fees to the tier-two recruiters, who must send a percentage of their earnings up to Mike. This recruitment and payment cycle repeats over and over again for as long as possible.

Multilevel marketing schemes have been very prevalent in our country for over two decades now and with the increasing number of cases of such Ponzi schemes there is a dire need for introduction and implementation of strong government policy. While these pyramid schemes are thriving in India the masterminds behind these schemes is perhaps making money sitting in abroad. No one tends to wonder how it is mathematically possible to make the kind of profit that these MLM schemes claim to tempt people. Generally, in such a scheme one person recruits another who works under him or her and is required to invest certain amount which is paid to the first recruiter. Since the person who was recruited by the initial recruiter has to make returns on his investment he then in turn recruits more investors who wish to invest a fixed sum of money and this goes on giving rise to a chain of pyramids.

There are now two new captains so the group splits in two with each group requiring eight new passengers. A person who joins the scheme as a passenger will not see a return until they advance through the crew and co-pilot tiers and exit the scheme as a captain. Therefore, the participants in the bottom three tiers of the pyramid lose their money if the scheme collapses. Amway’s independent members are known as Amway Firm Owners, and they profit from the direct sale of items to clients, bonuses based on increasing sales volume, and lastly rewards as the business expands, according to The Business Model Analyst website.

Direct selling cos banned from promoting pyramid schemes

At a general level, the rules have now been made very prescriptive, in the sense that various obligations are imposed on both the direct sellers and direct selling entities. For instance, incorporation under any of the laws depending on the form of entity, having a registered office at someplace in India and providing self-declarations of compliance with the Rules. All the direct selling entities are supposed to act in accordance with these Rules within a period of 90 days. The rules state that the entities involved in pyramid or money circulation schemes do not form a part of the direct selling outfit. Also, Rule 10 expressly prohibits, in strict terms, the engagement by the direct selling entities in activities that promote pyramid or money circulation schemes. Agents of financial institutions are also excluded from the definition.

  • And this, indicated the ED, makes Amway’s operations similar to a pyramid scheme, where new members are recruited by existing members with claims of amassing wealth and becoming rich.
  • In 2003, Indian police arrested two QI group senior managers in Chennai and froze the company bank account after receiving complaints from more than 50 of its members.
  • Ponzi Schemes – A Ponzi scheme is a kind of MLM fraud in the form of a fraudulent investment scheme that promotes a very high rate of return to its investors.

The should also disclose the identity of the direct selling entity, the address of the place of business, the nature of goods or services sold and the purpose of such solicitation to the prospect. Besides, the direct seller should have a prior written contract with the direct selling entity for undertaking the sale of, or offer to sell, any goods or services of such entity. Now, such companies will also be liable for the grievances arising out of the sale of goods or services by its direct sellers. Qnet Ltd, formerly known as QuestNet and GoldQuest, is a Hong Kong-based multi-level marketing company owned by the QI Group.

Govt prohibits direct-selling entities from using Pyramid Scheme business model

Thousands of people who joined the Qnet network lost money invested in the company. The Fatwa Committee of Kurdistan Iraq, issued a statement denouncing the activity of Qnet as haram. In Senegal Qnet recruited 108,000 members charging between 500 and 700 dollars.

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Money continues to flow up the chain as new players bring in more recruits, forming an ever-increasing pyramid or hierarchy. Money circulation plans are another name for this type of arrangement. Amway has retained its multi-level marketing business strategy throughout.The pyramid scheme is said to be a deceptive way of ‘duping’ investors, building a continuous chain of investments. It is also now mandatory to have a minimum of one physical location as its registered office within India and the companies to make a self-declaration that a direct selling entity has complied with the provisions of the direct selling rules. Amway scam – In 2013, the Chief Executive Officer of Amway India, William S Pinckney, Was held liable and arrested for involving its distributors in a pyramid scheme.

Ponzi/Pyramid Schemes and Regulatory Framework in India

With every new addition, members at every level earn a commission and the topmost level is the highest earner. Amway was selling its products through a pyramid scheme . According to the statement given by the ED, Amway lured people into joining the company and buying their products at unreasonably high prices. People used to buy these expensive products not for use, but to become a member of the company. The government last year included Direct Selling under the Consumer Protection Act Rules, 2021. These new rules prohibit direct selling companies from charging registration fees from their agents, and bars them from charging their agents for the cost of demonstration to prospective buyers.

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As per the new pyramid scheme india, state governments will have to set up a mechanism to monitor or supervise the activities of direct sellers and direct selling entities. Over 100 people from Togo became victim to a big scam called Qnet. They were told by friends that they found jobs in Ghana with a monthly salary of 300,000 CFA franc but were instead made to pay 500,000 CFA franc for training. The victims without knowing the name of the company, sold things, mobilized the money and went into debt, only realizing later that they have joined Qnet against their will.

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Eswaran claimed that the opportunities offered by QI could change members’ lives. Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan asserted that GoldQuest was a pyramid scheme. These rules will apply to all goods and services bought or sold through direct selling, all models of direct selling and all direct selling entities to consumers in India. These rules apply to those direct selling entities also that are not established in India but offer goods or services to consumers here.


Additionally, while a Ponzi scheme is an outright case of fraud, it is possible for investors in pyramid schemes to legitimately earn a return on their investment. The differences between Ponzi vs. pyramid schemes can most easily be seen by examining the definition, nature, and operation of each. The SEC alleged that CKB posed as a very profitable MLM company that made money selling online educational courses for children. Unfortunately, this classic pyramid scheme involved little or no retail sales.

Explained: How is direct selling different from pyramid scheme and why has ED attached Amway India’s assets

The Albanian Civil War was partially motivated by the collapse of Ponzi schemes; however, they were widely referred to as pyramid schemes due to their prevalence in Albanian society. The unsustainable exponential progression of a classic pyramid scheme in which every member is required to recruit six new people. The 2.2 billion people in the 12th layer would be required to recruit 13.1 billion more people for the 13th layer, to sustain the scheme, but this is larger than the population of the world.

“As the matter is sub judice, we do not wish to comment further. We request you to exercise caution, considering a misleading impression about our business also affects the livelihood of over 5.5 lakh direct sellers in the country,” it said in a statement to media. Amway, however, claims that it does not offer any incentives to new members to join the company and the members are only paid once they make a transaction or sell the product, and hence they are not operating a pyramid scheme. You have likely heard the term “pyramid scheme,” but do you understand what a pyramid scheme is and how it works? Is a pyramid scheme the same thing as the multi-level marketing that is used so effectively by companies such as Lularoe and Herbalife?

But distributors eventually lost their money as there was no one willing to take the expensive product off their hands. The money being brought in by new distributors was used to pay off the original distributors. Much needed and awaited were the rules on direct selling, which have just been introduced in late December 2021. Initially, there was only the guidance that had been provided to the states in 2016. The most striking feature of the Rules is the prohibition of pyramid and money circulation schemes. They will also apply to those direct selling entities also that are not established in India but offer goods or services to consumers here.

The company partnered with former professional tennis player Martina Hingis in September 2015 and announced her as a Brand Ambassador. Qnet announced the liquidation of its office in Tajikistan on March 18, 2015, continuing its activities through a local company amidst accusations. In 2007, APLI, the direct selling Association of Indonesia, called GoldQuest a pyramid scheme.

So if the buy-in were $5,000, they would receive $40,000, paid for by the first eight investors. They would continue to buy in underneath the real investors, and promote and prolong the scheme for as long as possible to allow them to skim even more from it before it collapses. The Consumer Protection Act Rules, 2021, were enacted last year, prohibiting direct sales organisations from promoting pyramid or money circulation systems. These fresh regulations make it illegal for direct sales firms to charge their agents registration fees or to charge them for the cost of demonstrating to potential buyers. Unlike indirect sales organisations that sell their goods through a network of wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, MLM firms offer their goods directly to members of the general public. While not employees of the corporation, these members solicit new people to join the product selling system, thereby establishing a structure that increases the web and revenue.


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