A program with no or a low-quality product, or with a focus on getting paid per recruit, could be an illegal pyramid scheme. However, don't let the term pyramid throw you off. It's not the shape of the organization that makes it illegal. In fact, most companies have a pyramid structure with a CEO at the top, VPs next, mid-level managers etc. What makes an illegal pyramid scheme is the lack of a quality product, or that income is earned on recruiting, not commissions from sales.
Another issue that Amway and other companies were dinged for was how reps would lure people into coming to a "meeting" to hear how they could "leverage time and money." There are two problems related to this. The first is that many companies, in safeguarding their brand, don't allow reps to advertise their name. This practice means reps have to find a way to entice people to learn about them without saying the company name, which can seems suspicious.
People generally tend to prefer either the unilevel or the binary compensation plans. But, the breakaway compensation plan also has benefits of its own. With the breakaway compensation plan, creating breakaway legs offers more of an opportunity to build passive income. Ultimately, which compensation plan is best is up to where you think your strengths will help you excel most.
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It is almost impossible to stop the industry because of the amount of investors and lobbyists who are profiting from them. “During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it.” (Slate) The current administration under President Donald Trump will be a completely different story and may very well be a boon for the MLM industry. Let’s start with Trump himself. In 2009, he licensed his name to an MLM, which eventually went bankrupt, along with many of his participants. Many in Trump’s cabinet have strong ties to MLMs as well: Betsey DeVos (whose husband is the president of Amway — by the way, DeVos family has donated $200 million to the Republican party over the years), Ben Carson, Carl Icahn (a billionaire who is also a major investor in Herbalife and holds five board seats at the company), and Charles Herbster.
An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
But more than product selling MLM/NM provides a lucrative option to earn great part/full-time money and most importantly passive income. Once you sign up somebody in the business by selling a product and he signs-up someone else and so on, you create a network of people who are recommending a product or offering a business opportunity thus generating sales for the company and also earning 10-125 of the total sale happening through your network. In MLM u get percent of every sale that happens in your group of people directly (when u personally sell to someone) or indirectly (your team member sells to someone). So, if you have a network of 10 people and your team sold product worth $1000 then you would earn $100-150 as commissions. For direct sale u get more money.
The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.