MADISON, CONN. November 2, 2020 A truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) investigation has found hundreds of atypical and exaggerated income claims made by multilevel marketing company Market America on its website and social media platforms. The ad watchdog issued a warning letter alerting the MLM company to its findings and urging that it promptly remove the deceptive marketing used to promote its business opportunity. In response, the company removed the vast majority of the more than 750 deceptive claims flagged by TINA.org and stated its commitment “to ensuring that claims made by the company and its independent distributors are truthful and non-misleading,” while TINA.org continues its monitoring.
Founded by former Amway distributor James “JR” Ridinger, the North Carolina-based MLM describes itself as a “product brokerage and internet marketing company” and sells a variety of products through its Shop.com website where distributors (known as “UnFranchise Operators” or UFOs) earn “a shopping annuity” for purchases. Ridinger is well known in the industry for his over-the-top antics at company conferences, from jogging on a hamster wheel to smashing an alarm clock to yelling at a tombstone – all to showcase the “time and financial freedom” UFOs supposedly can obtain with Market America’s business opportunity. For its 2020 conference, the company enlisted celebrities including J. Lo, Eva Longoria, Alicia Keyes, Scottie Pippen and DJ Khaled to promote the business.
Of the 750 deceptive income claims collected by TINA.org all of which were made directly by the company or Ridinger, 450+ were published just this year. Through blog posts, YouTube videos, and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as hundreds of “Power Profiles” on its website, Market America advertised that its distributors can achieve time and financial freedom, quit their full-time jobs, earn a six-figure residual income, retire early, pay off debt, and more. TINA.org’s database also includes claims that the Market America business opportunity is a financial solution to the economic downfall resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Market America’s exaggerated income claims stand in sharp contrast to the fact that most people who become involved in multilevel marketing make little to no money and nowhere close to the kind of life-changing income necessary to achieve “time and financial freedom.”
“TINA.org has investigated over 140 MLMs and found that the vast majority make deceptive income claims,” said Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “But by publishing nearly a thousand deceptive income claims on its own platforms, Market America stands out as one of the most egregious cases we’ve seen. While we are pleased that it has taken swift action to comply with the law, the fact that a company has been inundating consumers with deceptive income claims for years is inexcusable.”
Multilevel marketing is under increased scrutiny by consumers and regulators alike. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the FTC has sent warning letters to a dozen MLMs for making unsubstantiated income claims. And earlier this month, FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips, speaking at an industry event, issued an ominous warning for MLMs making deceptive earnings claims: “I caution you to stay on the straight and narrow because now, more than ever, this is a top enforcement priority for me, and I hope the agency.”
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of Market America’s deceptive income claims, see: www.truthinadvertising.org/what-you-should-know-about-market-america