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FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule:
MLMLegal.Com Speaks Out
Jeffrey Babener, Babener and Associates
www.mlmlegal.com © 2006
Babener and Associates is a law firm that focuses on representation of direct selling companies. The firm represents startup, emerging and mature direct selling companies in the U.S. and abroad. The firm serves as editor of the educational website, www.mlmlegal.com. The firm's principal member, Jeffrey Babener, has lectured and published extensively on the subject of direct selling and has served on legal and governmental committees of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and Multilevel Marketing International Association (MLMIA). For over two decades, the firm has advised and represented leading direct selling member companies of both the DSA and MLMIA. The firm has been actively involved in the dialog and submissions of industry participants regarding the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule.
In April 2006, the FTC released a sweeping proposed change in its FTC Business Opportunity Rule. The proposal was immediately and strongly criticized by representatives of and experts in the MLM, Direct Sales, Direct Selling, Network Marketing and Party Plan industry. The process to a completed Rule is expected to last 18 months to 3 years. For extensive analysis, text of the actual FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule and ongoing updates, please visit www.mlmlegal.com.
Babener and Associates and www.mlmlegal.com Position Statement on FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule
Industry trade associations, companies and direct selling distributors have stressed the importance of addressing the tremendous hardship, if the proposed FTC Rule is adopted, that would fall upon an industry with approximately 14 million earners in the U.S. alone. In addition to actively participating in the industry dialog, and profiling the issues and opportunities for comment at www.mlmlegal.com, Babener and Associates and www.mlmlegal.com have submitted formal comments to the FTC. Below is the actual text of the formal comments of Babener and Associates and www.mlmlegal.com on the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule.
Babener and Associates and www.mlmlegal.com formal comments submitted to FTC on the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule:
BABENER & ASSOCIATES
BANK OF AMERICA FINANCIAL CENTER
121 S.W. MORRISON STREET, SUITE 1020
PORTLAND, OREGON 97204-3140
TELEPHONE (503) 226-6600
FAX (503) 226-4290
July 11, 2006
Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex W)
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
RE: Business Opportunity Rule, R511993
Position Statement of Babener and Associates on FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule, R551993
Our law firm, Babener and Associates, is writing to support comments and submissions of the DSA (Direct Selling Association) and MLMIA (Multilevel Marketing International Association) regarding the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule, R551993. We fully support the FTC in its laudatory consumer protection objective to challenge fraudulent and deceptive business practices, but, along with other industry professionals, we believe that the proposed rule will not further its objective and will instead pose an undue hardship to the businesses of 14 million direct sellers whose sales revenue approaches $30 billion per year.
Profile of Firm Providing Comment:
For almost 25 years, this firm has served as legal advisor to startup, emerging and mature direct selling companies headquartered throughout the U.S. and abroad. The firm has served as legal counsel to many members of the DSA and MLMIA and, over the years, its legal advice has been sought out by such leading direct selling companies as Avon, Shaklee, NuSkin, Nikken, Melaleuca, Longaberger, Tupperware, Excel Communications, ACN, USANA, Prepaid Legal, Discovery Toys, etc. We have served on the DSA Lawyer's Council and Government Relations Committee and as a supplier member of the DSA, and we have served on the board of directors and as general counsel to the MLMIA. We have published extensively on the subject of direct selling and lectured at industry conferences and universities such as the University of Texas and University of Illinois. We have served as trial lawyer in many cases throughout the U.S. on the subject of direct selling. The firm posts an educational website on direct selling, www.mlmlegal.com. We are frequently called upon by the media as an expert on the subject of direct selling, we have served on conference panels with regulatory officials and we are one of a handful of law firms in the U.S. that specialize in the area of direct selling.
A Brief Critique of the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule:
In that detailed analysis and comment will be provided by industry trade associations such as the DSA and MLMIA, as well as many leading companies in the industry, and, in that our firm has been an active participant in the dialog leading to those filings, we will not revisit, in detail, the arguments and analysis here. Certain aspects of the proposed rule are of particular concern to the direct selling industry, and worthy of repeating here:
- The underlying assumptions regarding the size and scope of the direct selling industry and the adverse impact on the industry are grossly underestimated in the FTC staff report on the proposed rule.
- Requiring prospective sales recruits to wait seven days after a recruitment presentation to join a direct selling company will stifle recruitment in an industry that depends on an orderly development of a sales organization. A better approach would be to allow a seven day right of rescission, paralleling the FTC Cooling Off Rule.
- Requiring direct sellers to provide information and identity of 10 sales associates, in close geographic proximity to a prospective salesperson, will be a logistical nightmare and a dramatic invasion of privacy of those whose information is shared. The proposed disclosure lays a foundation for identity theft and, in an industry where the majority of sales people are women, the disclosure of their identity information to "strangers" creates unwelcome opportunities for sexual predators.
- Requiring direct sellers to release any information regarding prior litigation, whether or not at fault, is not only onerous and unfair, but creates an unwarranted stigma for legitimate companies involved.
- In the course of crafting a separate business opportunity rule, elimination of the historical $500 expenditure threshold for triggering applicability of the FTC franchise rule is inconsistent with state business opportunity legislation, FTC franchise rules, and causes direct selling companies with minimal investments to be subjected to onerous record keeping and disclosure rules that will become a major inhibitor of small business, a major contributor to the U.S. economy. In fact, after a few decades, in light of inflation, the threshold should be raised, not lowered. In reality, as is the case today, the frauds and cheats will not bother to comply with the proposed rule and the burden and damage of the new bureaucratic rules will be borne by legitimate businesses.
- If the goal is to attack sleazy "fly by night" marketers of false and deceptive direct selling practices, a long line of FTC enforcement actions demonstrates that the FTC has the current authority, mandate and capability to attack fraudulent and deceptive practices.
The FTC and the direct selling industry are on the same wavelength in their goal of furthering consumer protection. However, virtually every constituency in the direct selling industry, companies, distributors, industry experts and professionals, believe that the FTC's Proposed Business Opportunity Rule dramatically misses the mark in achieving this goal, is not premised on an informed view of the industry and issues surrounding it, does not further consumer protection against "frauds and cheats," unintentionally casts an overly broad net that severely hampers the ability of legitimate businesses to operate and, if implemented, will have the result of crippling a major channel of distribution in the U.S. as well as the livelihoods of 14 million Americans that look to direct selling to help support their families.
Jeffrey A. Babener
Babener and Associates
End of Babener and Associates and MLMLegal.Com formal comments on FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule
|Please click here to download and read the complete text in PDF format of the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule
Look for ongoing updates on the status of the FTC Proposed Business Opportunity Rule at MLMLegal.com. Copyright Jeffrey Babener Jeffrey Babener
On any given day you can catch Jeffrey Babener, editor of www.mlmlegal.com, lecturing on Network Marketing at the University of Texas or the University of Illinois, addressing thousands of distributors in Los Angeles, Bangkok, Tokyo and Russia, or writing a new book on Network Marketing, an article for Entrepreneur Magazine or a chapter for a University textbook. Over two decades he has served as marketing and legal advisor to some of the world's largest direct selling companies, the likes of Avon, Nikken, Shaklee, Tupperware, Prepaid Legal, Longaberger, Melaleuca, Discovery Toys, Usana, Amazon Herb, NuSkin, Cell Tech, Sunrider.... and he has provided counsel to the most successful telecom network marketing companies...Excel, ACN, World Connect, ITI, Acceris, AOL Select and Network 2000. An active spokesperson for the industry, he has assisted in new legislation and served on the Lawyer's Council, Government Relations Committee and Internet Task Force of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) as well as serving as General Counsel for the Multilevel Marketing International Association. He is an MLM attorney supplier member of the DSA and has served as legal counsel and MLM consultant on MLM law issues for many DSA companies. He is author of multiple books, including, Network Marketing: What You Should Know, Network Marketer's Guide To Success, Tax Guide for MLM/Direct Sellers, Starting and Running the Successful MLM Company, The MLM Corporate Handbook and Window of Opportunity. He is author of countless articles on network marketing, many of which can be found at www.mlmlegal.com where he is the editor. You will see his articles and interviews in such publications as Money, Atlantic Monthly, Success, Entrepreneur, Business Startups, Home Office Computing, Inc., Money Makers Monthly, etc. He has been chairman of numerous industry conference series, including, Starting and Running the Successful MLM Company, The MLM Entrepreneur Series and The MLM Masters series. He has served as the close advisor to scores of MLM Companies and their distributors, comprising millions of distributors and billions of dollars in sales. Mr. Babener is a graduate of the University of Southern California Law School, where he served as editor of the USC Law Review. After an appointment to be an advisor law clerk to a U.S. Federal Judge, he went on to become a member of the California and Oregon State Bar, where he has also served as chairman of the Oregon State Bar Committee on Judicial Administration. He has exclusively practiced in the area of direct selling for over 20 years. A Regulatory Update for MLM,Direct Selling, Network Marketing, Direct Sales, Party Plan Independent Distributors and Companies
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