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Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Kathryn A. Jones

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United Kingdom’s BERR Case

In April 2007, the Secretary of State for BERR presented a petition to “wind up,” or shut down, Amway’s U.K. operation, contending that its business model was “inherently objectionable.” The Amway system functioned as an unlawful lottery, the government claimed, because bonus payments made to IBOs were unpredictable and made on chance, depending whether those who were recruited purchased products. Also, the business was an unlawful trading scheme, the secretary of state claimed, because IBOs were “induced” to make a joining and renewal payment in the belief they would receive payments or other benefits from introducing new people to the Amway business.2 That November, the Chancery Division, which oversees legal business matters, began hearing arguments in the case. Queen’s Counsel Mark Cunningham and barrister Andrew Westwood, representing the BERR secretary of state, argued that Amway’s promises of “unachievable” wealth violated British company law, that most of Amway’s products were overpriced, and that IBOs were encouraged to buy materials about how to grow their businesses.3 Images of luxury cars, boats, and foreign holidays heightened the message that wealth was within reach by starting an Amway business. “The prospect of substantial rewards and easy money has been at all times, and remains, illusionary,” Cunningham said. Only a “very narrow group” made any money, he added. Cunningham termed the company’s modus operandi of encouraging agents to recruit ...

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