How Real Estate Influencers are Fuelling The Housing Crisis

Illustration by Anson Chan

Social media is flooded with real estate promotions, and no one is sure what laws apply. But when things go wrong, investors and tenants have a lot to lose

Last summer, Hamilton realtor Sean St Cyr promoted a lucrative real estate investing opportunity across a number of Facebook groups. Investors could receive an average annual return of 20.2 per cent, the post stated, if they gave him a minimum of $100,000 to purchase a derelict three-storey building in the city’s east end, an area that has been in decline since a steel plant there started running into trouble decades ago.

“Have you ever wanted to learn how to make serious money in real estate like the pros?” Mr. St Cyr said in one of his many promotions for the deal. On Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, Mr. St Cyr regularly shares tips with his thousands of followers about how to make money through real estate investing. They are posted alongside photos of his travels and meals from the 35 countries he says he has visited.

Mr. St Cyr, a self-described international real estate investor and foodie, is one of the many investors looking for other people’s money, or OPM, on social media to fund real estate deals. He and legions of other promoters have helped fuel the real estate investing craze in Canada that revved up when home prices soared and COVID-19 restrictions led people to spend more time online.

Every day, across the country, there’s a steady stream of requests in Facebook groups and personal pages for money to buy rental properties. Many of the promoters are everyday Canadians who have learned investing techniques online themselves. Some of them promise mind-blowing profits and often dispense real estate investment advice.

No one knows how many investors have got involved in real estate because of this explosion of online promotion. But over the first year of the pandemic, investor buying of residential properties doubled in Canada. By the middle of last year, investors accounted for more than a fifth of the country’s home purchases.

However, with interest rates rising and real estate markets cooling, promoters may not be able to deliver the profits they have promised their investors. That has upped the pressure on them to further raise rents, worsening the country’s affordable housing problem at a time when inflation has eaten away at Canadians’ pocketbooks.

When things go wrong with real estate, they can really go wrong. Tenants, including society’s most vulnerable, can be harshly evicted in the name of investment returns. Investors, many of whom call themselves risk-averse, lose their life savings. And no one has a full grasp of the impact these investors have on the real estate market.

Regulators do not appear to be paying attention, either. Many promotions appear to be skirting securities rules. Promoters are either unaware of the rules or know they can get away with not complying with them. Without enforcement, promoters are raising capital with little to no legal scrutiny…Continue reading

Source: Other people’s money, everyone’s problem: How real estate influencers are fuelling the housing crisis – The Globe and Mail

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  • STEP 2: Choose Your Products: Find only the most profitable, high selling, in demand products and they help you add more of those to your new Smart pCommerce store to profit TODAY.
  • STEP 3: Profit: Use their custom, automated & secure this Store to start generating profits within minutes.

This software is designed to help you sell all types of products online from the comfort of your home. The focus is on helping you earn the most money this holiday season so that you can start the new year strong. No matter what the pseudo-experts say… eCommerce is NOT going anywhere. It is here. And it’s growing at a rapid rate. Listen…what’s the worst that can happen if you do get it right now?

See for yourself over the next few days if it can boost your profits and results. If it doesn’t you have nothing to lose anyway….But imagine it actually works? Wouldn’t that make everything worth it? So go right away and grab the pCommerce Bundle and bonuses here.

PCOMMERCE FEATURES

  • Create Smart Secure Crypto Based Stores: pCommerce’s AI based app is a game-changer. It helps put you on the global map & sell products in the most advanced, secure & hassle-free manner. In just a few clicks, you can launch your own ecommerce store that pulls in a huge amount of crypto automatically. It also makes everything else effortless – like selling & receiving secure payments. All you need to do is log-in & collect your favorite coin effortlessly.
  • Find Profitable Products: Add high demand, high profit products into your Smart pCommerce Store
  • Rent Secure Crypto eCommerce Stores To Local Businesses: Imagine the profits you could bank, month after month offer local business the opportunity to sell their goods and services online for crypto. This can be a huge win-win for everyone.
  • Stunning Design That Converts: The sole purpose of the intuitive and stunning designing of their ecommerce stores is to help you attract traffic without even trying. Suited to your niche & business, the designs are tailored to your needs to attract high volumes of profits.
  • Tap In Billions Of Shoppers: In 2022 global ecommerce sales will likely finish at more than $5 trillion. This is because of things like the rise of mobile shopping, the growth of social media, and the increasing popularity of subscription services. The U.S. alone has seen a 16% increase in ecommerce shopping in the past year.
  • Product Management – Products, Category and Tags: Here’s the good news. You don’t need to keep a huge team to manage your pCommerce store. Your content in their servers is more than enough to get the job done well. Answering product questions from prospects and order fulfillment questions from buyers is super easy. Not to mention securely SELLING right inside of your pCommerce store. Adding & removing products, categories & tags cannot be any easier than it is on pCommerce.
  • 100% Mobile Friendly: We know that everyone is browsing the internet through their mobile phones…hardly anyone is really using a computer anymore. So their technical team behind pCommerce have made sure both the app as well as the ecom store are fully mobile friendly!
  • So Straightforward That You Can Start Right Now: It is really extremely simple to get your Estore up & running in no time. A few clicks later, using it you can tap into a huge customer base & begin counting your profits. There is no learning curve involved. Just start as you are & see how a secure pCommerce store can grow your biz.
  • Truly Next-Level: The world that they live in is evolving faster than anyone could have predicted. To keep up with changing trends, they offer you only the most sophisticated tools. They’re also working on constantly updating their technology to give you nothing but the best.
  • Step by Step Training for Everything: It is really easy to get started with. But to make it even simpler, they’re spelling out everything you can do with it in their step-by-step tutorial that is included within your purchase. You also get their top notch support. Simply reach out & they’ll take good care of you.

Get All The Products You’ll Ever Need: It uses AI to automatically find and add the most profitable and high selling products to your store. Never Touch, or Ship A Product: The best part of this software is never having to store, pack or ship ANY products. No Merchant Account EVER: No need to fight to get permission to use credit cards no matter you or your customer lives. Free Commercial License: Make as many sales as you want AND rent Secure Online Stores to Local Businesses.

Create Contactless pCommerce Stores For Local Businesses: Built-in QR code creator helps you create pCommerce Stores for local businesses empowered with contactless ecom and paymentsEffortless Lead Generation: Automated scheduling & posting across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram among others powered by artificial intelligence to pull off unlimited traffic. Hosting Included: Enjoy free hosting forever! The best part is that you can choose your own sub-domain.

Source: https://www.getpcommerce.com

.

Marketing Program Apps To Buy:

.

10 Bold Actions In Positive Life     https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383942/
3D Pal Toons     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/381689/
4brandcommercial        https://jvz1.com/c/202927/375487
7 Minutes Kit      https://jvz8.com/c/202927/374505/
9 figure Success        https://jvz8.com/c/202927/384653/
Ad Raven      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/382796/
Ada leadz     https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376381
ADA Web      https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383751/
AdRaven       https://jvz3.com/c/202927/382851/
Adsense Machine      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/290487
Adtivate Agency      https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383706/
AdvertSuite     https://jvz1.com/c/202927/335011/
AdzHero     https://jvz2.com/c/202927/366972/
AffiliateMatic     https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381148/
Agency Client Finder    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/384619/
Agencyscale      https://jvz1.com/c/202927/383113/
AgencyScale      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/383111/
AIWA Commercial     https://jvz2.com/c/202927/365061
ALL-in-One HD Stock    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381560
Animaxime    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383307/
Appimize      https://jvz8.com/c/202927/370227
Appoint B Agency     https://jvz1.com/c/202927/384630/
Appointomatic      https://jvz6.com/c/202927/374258
Appowls    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381231/
Art Of Living    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/382425/
Audiencetoolkit     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/302715
Audika    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/383635/
Aweber Crash Course     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/383057/
Backlinkindexer    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/88118
BettingMaster      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/387079/
BevTraders    http://www.bevtraders.com/?ref=arminham
Big Audio Club     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/380087/
BigAudio Club    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/380877/
Boost Optimism   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/380692/
BrandElevate   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381807/
BrandElevate   https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381812
Bybit     https://www.bybit.com/en-US/invite?ref=ALEXP
CanvaKitz    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/379051/
ChatterPal    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/324615
Clientfinda   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/370806
Clipsreel   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/372682
Commission smasher   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/376879
Content Gorilla   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/330783
Content Tool Kit   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/329145/
CourseAlly eLearning   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/384759/
CourseReel   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/355249
Courserious   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/360397/
Coursova   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376527
Creaitecontent  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376986
Credit Repair   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/377815/
Cryptokit    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/383809/
CryptoRocket    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378113/
CryptoUnderworld     https://jvz8.com/c/202927/374345/
Dealcheck     https://dealcheck.io?fp_ref=armin16
DesignaSuite      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/297271
DesignBeast    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/371547
DevelopSelfEmpowerment     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/383094/
DFYContentClub     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/381337/
DFYSuite   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381194/
Diabetes Guide    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/358870/
Diddly Pay’s    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/315596
Diet fitness diabetes   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/286851
Domainname    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377005
Dominate Email   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/386980/
Dropshiply   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383483/
DUX Forex Signals   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/128215/
EBook Agency    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/384573/
Ejaculation Total   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/75989/
Email Monetizer    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386337/
EngagerMate  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/328172
EngageYard   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383051/
Explaindio    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/123757/
Extreme Adz   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/379244/
Extreme Coupon  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/216101/
EZ Local Appointment  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385180/
Ezy  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/381935/
Ezy MultiStores  https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381935
Facebook Cash Machine   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/382333/
Facedrip  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376325/
FaceSwap   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381768/
Fade To Black   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/344541
Fanpage  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/144349
Fitness Nutrition   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/353334/
Followup Builder   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386313/
Forex Atlatian   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/25069/
Forex Blizz   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/144577/
Forex Blue Stark  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/47481/
Forex expert   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376877
Forex Hybrid Scalper    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/95037/
Forex Joustar   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/381617/
Forex Mastery   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/144621/
Forex Scouts   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/132677/
forrk  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/373449
FusionMT4    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/372523/
FX Goldminer  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/381439/
Galactic  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/188236/
Gaming job   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/184902  s
Genesis Mining   https://www.genesis-mining.com/a/2535466
Gluten free   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/296191
GMB Magic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377194
Graphic Alta  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/324492/
Heal Your Emptiness   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384848/
High Converting Emails  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386305/
HostLegends    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/384755/
Hostley Domain Creator   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379223/
Human Synthesys Studio  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/367353/
ImageX   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/363237/
IMSyndicator  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/370769
Inboxr   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/312692
Insta Keyword    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/351606/
Instant Website   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377557
InstantWebsiteBundle          https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377557
iTraffic X  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/320466
keysearch  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/194909
KlickCourse   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/385006/
Klippyo Kreators  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/327447
KoinCart   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383555/
Leadvalet   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/385580/
Levidio Royal Podcasting   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384025/
Linkable DFY   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/385873/
Linkomatic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/380937/
LiteTrading   https://www.litefinance.com/?uid=929237543
Live Your Truth  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379020
Living An Intentional Life    https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/382455
Living an International Life    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/382455/
Local Leader   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/383751/
Local Sites   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/380543/
LocalAgencyBox  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/359468
LocalCentric   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/379339/
LocalioAI    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378310/
MarketAll      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386971/
Marketingblocks     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/374934
MarketPresso   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/369837
Mat1 Simple Funnel   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/380197/
Maxslides  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376842
Mech Forex Robot   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/383447/
MediaCloudPro   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/343635
Megasuite   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383953/
Mobi First   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/353694/
Motion Kingdom Studio  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/383177/
Movid Animation  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/380385/
MT4Code System   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/376925
My Passive Income   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/384099/
MyMailIt   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/292919
MyTrafficJacker   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/353558
Next Drive  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/371095/
NichBox  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/370705/
Organic Life Guide  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/366872/
Pcommerce   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/372265/
Phemex  https://phemex.com/register-vt1?referralCode=D8HUS2
Photokit  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/373207/
PicsAds   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385468/
PigMoneyMethod   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/377665/
PipStock   http://pipstockexchange.com/register?ref=204
Pitchdeck   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/347847/
Pixal  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/378775/
PixaStudio    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/373089/
Pixivid   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/385213/
PlanB Muscle Growth   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/36517/
PlayerNeos   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/376962
Podcast Advantage   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/379995/
Podcast Masterclass  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/379998/
PodKastr    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/369500/
Poplinks Funnel    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/368095/
Postradamus     https://jvz6.com/c/202927/108695
Power Reviews    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/384625/
Powrsuite   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376361
PR Rage  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/343405
prime stocks   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/369164  prime stocks
Profile mate    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/358049
Promovidz   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/375692/
Push Button Traffic   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/301402
QR Verse   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383865/
Quintex Capital     https://quintexcapital.com/?ref=arminham
Quit Smoking    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/359081/
QuizMatic   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/387116/
Reputor   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/380159/
ReVideo  https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381761
ReviewReel   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/382663/
Rewriter   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/353373/
RSI SEO   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384381/
Scriptdio   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/385387/
Seniors Income    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383888/
Senuke  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/279944
ShopABot   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/291955
ShopFunnels   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/384069/
SocialAgency360   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385357/
SociCake  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/321987
Socifeed   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/375706
SociJam  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/309649
Soronity  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/368736
SqribbleEbook   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/283867
Stackable Picture   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385046/
Steven Alvey’s   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/351754
Stoodaio   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/372094
Storymate    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/320972
StreamPilot   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385431/
Studioninja   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/374965
Sunday Freebie  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/267113/
Super backdrop   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376524
Survai    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/380933/
Syndranker    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/378143/
Talkingfaces   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/375550
The Internet Marketing   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/289944
Tonai Voice Content   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/383119/
Toon Video Maker    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/357201
TrafficForU   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381950/
Trendio  https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381003/
TubePal   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379863/
Tubeserp   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/370472
TubeTargeter  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377211
TuneMingo    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/386556/
TV Boss Fire  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379480/
Ultrafunnels A.I   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381129/
VIADZ Ad Template  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/379307/
Vidcentric   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/376095
Viddeyo    https://jvz6.com/c/202927/382326/
Videevolve   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381011/
Video Campaignor      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/387058/
Video Games   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/184902/
VideoEnginePro     https://jvz2.com/c/202927/372916
VideoGameSuite    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/366537/
VideoRobot Enterprise   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/291061
VidKreate   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/386029/
VidMingo   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378359/
VidRaffle   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386840/
VidSnatcher    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/342585
VidVoicer    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379983/
Vidzura   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/385754/
Viral dash   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/375959
Viral Quotes      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386984/
VirtualReel   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376849
Vocalic  https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383848/
VoiceBuddy    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/342854
WebCop  https://jvz4.com/c/202927/378683/
Webinarkit   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383937/
Webprimo   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379455/
WordPress Mastery   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/386249/
WowBackgraounds   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381556/
WP GDPR    https://jvz8.com/c/202927/299907
WP Simulator    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/46987/
Writer Arc   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/386602/
writing job   https://jvz8.com/c/202927/213027
XBrain Forex   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/372305/
XFUNNELS   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/310335
Xinemax  https://jvz1.com/c/202927/381749/
YoDrive   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/384700/
YoSeller   https://jvz4.com/c/202927/387544/
Your 3DPal   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381685/
YTSuite   https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381179
Zappable    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/367328/

WeWork Cofounder Adam Neumann’s New Real Estate Startup Sounds An Awful Lot Like One He Invested In Two Years Ago

I joined Forbes as the Europe News Editor and will be working with the London newsroom to define our coverage of emerging businesses and leaders across the UK and Europe. Prior to

I’m a senior editor at Forbes covering venture capital, cloud and startups out of New York. I edit the Midas List, Midas List Europe, Cloud 100 list and 30 Under 30 for VC. I’m a Fortune

Source: WeWork Cofounder Adam Neumann’s New Real Estate Startup Sounds An Awful Lot Like One He Invested In Two Years Ago

Related contents:

Jacobs, Sarah (October 20, 2017). “The most valuable startup in New York City just opened its first gym to compete with Equinox see what it’s like inside”. Business Insider.

More Remote Working Apps:

https://givvy-numbers.app.link/qNDZMGGbhsb  Givvy Mobile Lottery

https://quintexcapital.com/?ref=arminham     Quintex Capital

https://www.genesis-mining.com/a/2535466   Genesis Mining

https://www.bybit.com/en-US/invite?ref=ALEXP  Bybit Crypto Trade

 http://www.bevtraders.com/?ref=arminham   BevTraders

https://www.litefinance.com/?uid=929237543  LiteTrading

https://cashbox.money/r/6ded936cbc264c7e9add5dd5565bb31a   Cash Box Money

https://alpariforex.org/fa/registration/?cpa_partner_id=13687690   Alpari Forex Trading

https://dealcheck.io?fp_ref=armin16   Dealcheck Real Estate Evaluator

https://jvz8.com/c/202927/369164  prime stocks

 https://jvz1.com/c/202927/373449  forrk   

https://jvz3.com/c/202927/194909  keysearch  

 https://jvz4.com/c/202927/296191  gluten free   

https://jvz1.com/c/202927/286851  diet fitness diabetes  

https://jvz8.com/c/202927/213027  writing job  

 https://jvz6.com/c/202927/108695  postradamus

https://jvz1.com/c/202927/372094  stoodaio

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MLMs Could Be In FTC Trouble With a Business Opportunity Rule Change

Say I’ve got a business selling bananas, and I want you to sell bananas, too. Presumably, you’d want to know some details about this banana business opportunity, such as whether I’ve ever been sued for lying about my business, whether the amount of money I say you would earn is accurate, and what happens if, after selling for a while, you want to quit. Perhaps you’d want to take a week to think about it before signing on.

For most business opportunities in the United States, that’s the legal standard I would have to follow to get you on board. It doesn’t apply to multilevel marketing companies (MLMs), though. They’re exempt — at least for now.

A decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put in place the “business opportunity rule,” which basically describes a set of requirements for people trying to get others involved in a business opportunity, such as a work-from-home job (some of which are scams). The rule says that people offering such opportunities have to provide support for any income claims — if I tell you that you can make $1 million a year in my banana business, I have to prove it.

They must also disclose whether they’ve been involved in certain legal actions (such as any involving fraud), and list them out if they have; detail their refund and cancellation policy (if they have one); and provide a list of at least 10 other people who have bought in, all seven days before the person they’re recruiting pays any money or signs anything.

There were plenty of people who believed that MLMs should be included in the FTC rule when it was enacted a decade ago, but they were granted an exception following massive pushback from the industry. “That’s the power of lobbying for you,” said Douglas Brooks, an attorney who specializes in MLMs.

That could be about to change. The FTC announced in June that it would review the business opportunity rule as part of a revised 10-year review schedule — and there is hope that, this time around, MLMs might be roped in.

Earlier this year, then-FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra (who was recently confirmed as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), put out a statement urging that MLMs and gig-economy platforms be included in the rule. Now that Chopra’s at the CFPB, the other commissioners — including FTC Chair Lina Khan, a protégé of Chopra’s, and Noah Phillips, a Republican-appointed commissioner who has criticized MLMs in the past — are expected to take a look at the issue.

Outside the FTC, anti-MLM sentiment has been on the rise of late as people involved have felt more emboldened to speak out about the pitfalls of the business model and high-profile media projects have called attention to the issue.

MLMs are certain to push back against their inclusion. One lawyer I spoke to, who asked to withhold their name because they have clients in the industry, told me that the rule would be “disastrous” for MLMs and likely “decimate” the industry. Whether the FTC actually makes any changes to the rule is uncertain, and the process could take months or even years. But it’s a start.

MLMs lobbied their way out of regulation a decade ago. It’s not clear whether they’ll be so lucky now.

To back up a bit, multilevel marketing is a business model where sellers derive profits in two ways — by selling a product or service, and by recruiting other people to sell that product or service. Generally, the latter is more lucrative than the former.

It’s a big industry. The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a trade group representing MLMs, says it was worth $40 billion in 2020 and encompasses millions of sellers. It’s also a controversial one: The vast, vast majority of sellers make little, if any, money in MLMs (they often lose money), and consultants and companies have been caught on multiple occasions making misleading claims about earnings potential and product effectiveness.

Critics say MLMs are in essence pyramid schemes, where only people at the top make money, and do so by constantly recruiting new members. MLMs reject this characterization, but at the very least, some MLMs have gotten into trouble with regulators for bad behavior, including Amway, AdvoCare, and Herbalife.

MLMs aren’t completely unregulated — the FTC and Securities Exchange Commission, for example, have some purview over them. But it’s hard not to wonder whether there could be more guardrails, including with something like the business opportunity rule, which MLMs have vociferously opposed.

First proposed in 2006 and finalized in 2011, the business opportunity rule is meant to protect consumers from “bogus business opportunities” by laying out some basic requirements about what potential recruits need to be told and when.

When the rule was first proposed, the MLM industry went into overdrive to try to make sure it wouldn’t apply to them. As The Verge outlined in 2014, the DSA got over 17,000 people to send comment letters to the FTC opposing the then-forming rule being applied to MLMs. (By comparison, MLM critics sent under 200 letters.) MLMs also boosted lobbying expenditures and got dozens of members of Congress to write to the FTC urging it to let MLMs be.

“They just swamped the FTC with things basically saying, ‘If you do this to us, it’ll destroy the industry,’” Brooks said.

MLMs were successful: The FTC decided that they should be exempted from the rule, determining that it “would have imposed greater burdens on the MLM industry than other types of business opportunity sellers without sufficient countervailing benefits to consumers.” An FTC staff report said that some MLMs do engage in bad practices and are pyramid schemes, but that would better be determined on a case-by-case basis and the “record developed was insufficient as a basis for crafting MLM disclosures that would effectively help consumers make an informed decision about the risks of joining a particular MLM.”

Looking at how MLMs operate, critics have questioned whether the FTC’s decision was the right one — and hope they’ll decide differently now. There’s been increased scrutiny by the public on MLMs in recent years, and regulators have continued to take notice of their practices. The FTC has sent out warning letters to MLMs during the pandemic over their earnings and product claims (companies and sellers have taken advantage of the crisis). The regulator is currently enmeshed in a lawsuit against Neora, which sells skin care and wellness products, over allegations that it is a pyramid scheme.

The public has taken more notice of MLMs and the business model as well. For a long time, many people who were involved in MLMs and failed (which most do) didn’t talk about it — they were embarrassed, or they felt guilty over roping their friends and family into it, too. Former sellers and experts say that MLM culture is one where leaders place blame for failure fully on the shoulders of the individual.

Sellers are told that if it doesn’t work out, it’s their fault and their fault alone. But there has been an explosion of growth in anti-MLM communities on the internet, and there seems to be a greater awareness of the drawbacks the business model brings with it.

In other words, the FTC won’t just be flooded with comments from the pro-MLM community this time around, it’s also likely to hear more from the anti-MLM community as well.

“I would expect that there are going to be many comments, and I would expect that the MLM industry will gather its troops,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of Truth in Advertising, a consumer advocacy nonprofit.

The FTC’s exact timing here is unclear. Patten said she expects action to begin in December, though she acknowledges it’s a bit of an “informed guess.” Even then, there’s a long road ahead, as the FTC will have to solicit public comments, send notices to lawmakers, and could hold arguments regarding changes. “This is a slow and laborious process,” Patten said.

Now that Chopra is at the CFPB, there have been some doubts among MLM critics as to how efforts to include MLMs in the business opportunity rule will proceed at the FTC. Chopra was the commissioner who had explicitly mentioned including MLMs under the rule, and now, the FTC has four commissioners instead of the usual five, so votes could come down to a two-two split.

Still, Patten said she’s relatively optimistic. “If we’re focused on MLM, I think of all the deceptive marketing issues in a deck of cards, MLM is the one that it appears all commissioners agree is an issue,” she said.

The FTC declined to comment on the matter, noting that they generally don’t speak publicly about rule-making processes as they are underway.

People should know what they’re getting into with MLMs

When you watch something like the LuLaRoe documentary or listen to a podcast like The Dream, it’s sometimes hard not to land in the same spot: How in the world can this be legal? Or at the very least, why isn’t more being done to look out for people before they get sucked in?

Most people don’t make money; plenty lose money. Some companies make earnings disclosures available, but they’re generally really difficult to read and understand. Even if it’s relatively clear that eight in 10 consultants make less than $10 a month, recruits are sold on the hope that they’ll be one of the lucky few to make $100,000.

Many MLMs don’t really know where their products go once they arrive at the sellers, who are often encouraged to buy in order to stay active in the company and show their commitment. (Their uplines, the people above them, make money when they buy.) Whether sellers are actually offloading those lotions or essential oils or earrings to other people, or just piling them up in their garage, the corporate office often is unaware.

Including MLMs in the business opportunity rule wouldn’t be a panacea, but at the very least, experts say it could be a good start. “All this rule would have required were some pretty basic disclosures and a seven-day cooling-off period, and you’re saying this is going to destroy the industry?” Brooks, the MLM attorney, said. “What’s going on here? Why would that be so destructive?”

A sample disclosure form on the FTC’s website doesn’t look that complex. Yet, Brooks said he expects it to be a “knock-down, drag-out” fight if it looks to the industry like MLMs will get included in the business opportunity rule. “I don’t doubt that they will go to Congress and try to get a law passed that will sort of preempt that effort,” he said. Indeed, there is a direct selling caucus in Washington, DC, with more than three dozen members, Republican and Democrat alike.

In a statement to Vox, Joseph Mariano, president and CEO of the DSA, said the organization “looks forward to a constructive engagement with the FTC on any prospective rule-making that might apply to direct sellers.” He said the DSA “has a long history of encouraging self-regulation and consumer protection as a complement to appropriate and reasonable government regulation” and pointed to the DSA’s code of ethics, which member companies and sellers must abide by, and the DSA’s self-regulatory council.

Brooks thinks efforts to curb MLM activity should go further than the business opportunity rule and other tools currently in the FTC’s toolbox. (Earlier this year, the Supreme Court curbed some of the FTC’s ability to seek monetary relief, which has prompted some of the conversation around the business opportunity rule.) In his view, regulators need to have harder lines around what MLMs can and can’t do in the first place.

“The FTC should prohibit certain types or aspects of MLM compensation plans, because the real problem with these companies is in the compensation plans, it’s the whole structure of the thing,” Brooks said. “People end up spending thousands and tens of thousands of dollars having thought that this was originally a $50 investment.”

So back to my banana business. At the very least, many experts say, I should have to tell you if the banana sellers under me are making $1 or $1 million a month. If I promise you that you’ll be a banana billionaire, I should have proof, and also tell you if there was a banana-related fraud lawsuit in my past, and give you a few days to decide if you want to get in on the bananas — whether I’m an MLM or not.

The harder question — and one the FTC isn’t looking at now, but perhaps should — is whether I should be able to get you in on the banana business at all if I know you’re almost sure to fail. If 99 of 100 sellers are in banana bankruptcy, just how hard can I sell you on the 1 in 100 dream of being a banana billionaire? That’s a question for another day.

Emily Stewart

Source: MLMs could be in FTC trouble with a business opportunity rule change – Vox

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Amazon Funds Its Empire By Squeezing Its Marketplace Sellers

Amazon has always presented its Marketplace, where outside businesses sell products through Amazon’s platform, as one of its biggest success stories: mutually beneficial to Amazon, sellers, and customers alike. But a new report says those benefits are increasingly lopsided — in Amazon’s favor.

The report, which comes from the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), asserts that Amazon takes a larger and larger cut of sellers’ earnings through the various fees it levies on them. These fees have become so lucrative for Amazon that they now represent the company’s most profitable segment as well as its fastest-growing revenue stream, according to ILSR. And because sellers are paying Amazon high fees, customers may face inflated prices, even when they shop beyond Amazon’s borders.

“Amazon is the only winner here,” Stacy Mitchell, ILSR co-director and author of the report, told Recode. “It’s exploiting its monopoly power over these small businesses to pocket a huge and growing cut of their revenue.”

You might consider this to be a good business strategy on Amazon’s part, as it’s certainly paid off for the company. And some sellers on Amazon’s platform say they’re happy with the arrangement — at least, for now. But a growing number of others argue that Amazon’s dominance over the e-commerce market and its power over its sellers has given rise to anti-competitive practices that hurt Amazon’s competitors, competition in general, and consumers.

“Amazon’s dominance is bad for businesses, jobs, and America’s competitiveness,” Rep. David Cicilline, chair of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, told Recode. “This important study makes clear that Amazon is crushing sellers through abusive policies that make it nearly impossible for everyday businesses to get ahead.”

These are some of the same issues identified by regulators and lawmakers who have accused Amazon of abusing its market dominance. They say it’s further evidence that action must be taken to curb Amazon’s power — and some of them are already working on legislation.

“It is important to understand how tech platforms can exploit their power to hurt small businesses and raise prices for consumers,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, told Recode. “This report highlights how Amazon’s tactics can lead to that result and why Congress must act to set clear rules of the road for the digital giants that dominate our online economy.”

Amazon disputes the report’s findings, calling it “intentionally misleading” for lumping its mandatory fees and optional services together as “seller fees.” Amazon maintains that all of its fees — mandatory and optional — are competitive with what similar services charge, and that many sellers are successful without taking advantage of those optional services. But Mitchell says many sellers feel compelled to pay those ostensibly optional fees if they want their businesses to stay afloat.

Marketplace: The gift that keeps on giving (to Amazon)

Marketplace is a huge part of Amazon’s business. In his 2020 letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos said it accounted for nearly 60 percent of Amazon’s retail sales, which come from nearly 2 million sellers. So when you buy a product on Amazon, chances are it was sold by an independent business using Amazon’s platform. Amazon isn’t providing that platform for free.

“The trade-off that any seller is dealing with is you get access to a huge audience, you get access to scale, the ability to scale your sales, but it comes at a cost to margin,” Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer, told Recode.

The cost to sellers is increasing every year, according to ILSR’s analysis, making business unsustainable for some sellers while Amazon’s profits grow.

The new ILSR report found that Amazon’s seller fees accounted for an average of 19 percent of sellers’ earnings in 2014. That’s almost doubled to 34 percent in 2021. And while seller fees accounted for 14 percent of Amazon’s entire revenue in 2014, that figure is up to 25 percent in 2021. Amazon will pull in $121 billion from seller fees alone, ILSR estimates.

That revenue translates to a lot of profit — more than even Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud computing platform typically believed to be the company’s most profitable arm. AWS netted $13.5 billion in 2020, according to Amazon’s financial data. ILSR estimates seller fees netted $24 billion. (Amazon says these figures are inaccurate but did not provide its own; the company’s public earnings statements also don’t combine seller fees in this way.)

“Everyone thinks AWS generates all of Amazon’s profits,” Mitchell said. “But in fact, Marketplace is this massive tollbooth that gushes profits.”

Seller fees primarily come from three things: sales, fulfillment, and ads. Every item sold is subject to a referral fee, which is Amazon’s commission. Over the years, that’s stayed pretty consistent at 15 percent (it may be lower or higher, depending on the product category). According to ILSR, those referral fees made up the majority of seller fees as recently as 2017.

Since then, however, the majority of fees come from Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon’s service that stores, packs, and ships sellers’ items to customers. Ad revenue is steadily gaining ground as more sellers pay for more ads to get prominent placement on Amazon’s site, including on product pages and search results.

Sellers who use FBA pay Amazon a fee based on the size and type of item they sell. Sellers also have to pay to ship items to and from Amazon’s fulfillment centers and to store them there. For some sellers, this might be a cheaper or easier option than doing it all themselves. Amazon says FBA’s pricing is competitive with similar fulfillment services if not cheaper, and sellers aren’t required to use it.

But help with logistics isn’t the only appeal of FBA for many sellers. Enrolling in the FBA program is the only way that most sellers can qualify for Prime. (Some sellers may qualify for Seller Fulfilled Prime, but it’s not accepting new enrollees at this time.) Getting that Prime badge is huge for a seller. Amazon shoppers — especially those 200 million Prime members — are far more likely to buy products that qualify for Amazon Prime. But that’s not only because they want to take advantage of the free shipping. It’s also because customers may not even see non-Prime offerings in the first place, thanks to the mechanics of the so-called Buy Box.

When multiple sellers offer the same item, Amazon’s algorithm picks one of them to be the default purchase on the product’s page. This is called “winning the Buy Box,” and when the customer clicks to add an item to their cart or to buy now, the seller who won the Buy Box is the one who gets the sale.

Prime items are far more likely to win the Buy Box than non-Prime items, and customers rarely click on that small “other sellers” link or the small “new and used” box where all the other listings are housed. This gives sellers a major incentive to pay for FBA, even if it costs more than taking care of the shipping themselves.

These FBA fees have been great for Amazon, which has dramatically expanded the logistics network that powers FBA as well as the number of sellers participating in the program. Five years ago, about half of Amazon’s top 10,000 sellers worldwide used FBA. By 2019, it was 85 percent. Amazon even offers a version of FBA for products ordered from other e-commerce services, including Shopify. Dave Clark, the CEO of Amazon’s consumer business, believes his company will be the largest delivery service in the United States by early 2022.

FBA aside, there are other ways sellers are paying Amazon more and more in the hope of generating sales. Amazon has been making a big push into digital advertising recently, and seller ads are part of its strategy. Critics have accused Amazon of increasing the number of sponsored slots in search results to increase ad inventory, and of charging more for the ads in them. (Amazon says the number of ads varies, and pricing is determined by an auction.)

Because of this, some sellers feel like they’re paying more and getting less. Amazon itself says these ads increase product visibility, which can translate into more sales. But that also means less visibility for the products in organic search results that earned their placement through strong sales and positive reviews. Sellers are already competing for this space with Amazon’s own products, and that competition might not be fair, as Amazon reportedly ranks its own products above others that had higher ratings. (Amazon has disputed these reports and says its ranking models don’t take into account whether the product is made by Amazon or offered by a third-party seller.)

Either way, many sellers increasingly feel pressure to buy ads just to get the same search placement (and sales) they once got for free. In a statement to Recode, Amazon maintained that FBA and ads are not mandatory and that sellers may find them beneficial.

“Sellers are not required to use our logistics or advertising services, and only use them if they provide incremental value to their businesses,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

How sellers’ problems affect your wallet

If you’re not a seller that relies on Amazon to survive, you might not see how any of this affects you. If you’re an Amazon customer, you might even think that this system is ensuring that you can buy products at the best price. But you might be wrong.

“Whether you shop on Amazon or not, you are paying higher prices because of its monopoly power,” Mitchell said.

When sellers have to raise their prices to account for Amazon’s increased fees, they often pass those costs along to the customer. And, thanks to Amazon’s fair pricing policy, sellers have to offer the same price on other platforms that they do on Amazon — even if their costs to sell on those platforms are less. If they don’t, Amazon may suspend or demote their listings. Sellers don’t want to take that risk, which could be potentially devastating to their business.

This policy could mean that, as sellers adjust their prices to account for Amazon’s fees, prices end up being higher elsewhere, too. It also makes it harder for other e-commerce platforms to compete with Amazon and challenge its market dominance, since they aren’t able to offer lower prices that would attract more customers. The lack of options means sellers are basically stuck with Amazon if they want to reach its exponentially larger and loyal consumer base.

Sellers have helped Amazon grow to own 40 percent and 50 percent (depending which report you cite) of the e-commerce market in the United States, and in some product categories, its share is far higher. Its closest platform competitor, Walmart, has just 7 percent. Amazon is often the first place online shoppers look for products — even before search engines — especially if those shoppers are Prime members. A large, established company can pull itself out of Amazon, as Nike did in 2019, and still do fine. Most businesses don’t have that luxury.

“Small businesses don’t have other options when it comes to the digital economy,” Rep. Ken Buck, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, told Recode. “Amazon continues to use their monopoly power to crush competition.”

One solution is for lawmakers and regulators to step in. Some are trying: The European Commission announced last year that it is investigating whether Amazon gave preferential treatment to itself and sellers that used FBA when determining who gets the Buy Box. The fair pricing policy and its potential to inflate prices across the internet is the basis of the District of Columbia’s lawsuit against Amazon, as well as a class action lawsuit filed by Amazon customers last year.

Several members of Congress — Buck, Cicilline, and Klobuchar among them — have introduced bills that would forbid some of Amazon’s practices they believe to be anti-competitive. These bills came out of a 16-month-long House antitrust subcommittee investigation into Big Tech companies, including Amazon. The committee accused Amazon of luring in customers and sellers with artificially low prices and Prime memberships that the company loses money on, only to raise rates as soon as Amazon’s market dominance was assured.

The proposed legislation would forbid Amazon from giving its own products prominent placement, unless it earned that place organically, and from requiring sellers to pay for ads or services like FBA in order to get preferred placement. One bill would forbid Amazon from competing in a marketplace it also owns, and could force Amazon to split off into a first-party sales company and a company that operates a platform for third-party sellers.

Amazon has responded to all of this by denying that such measures are necessary or that it’s doing anything wrong. The company has become one of the biggest lobbying spenders in the country, and it’s been emailing select sellers to warn them that pending antitrust legislation could make it difficult or impossible for them to sell their products on Amazon.

After years of studying Amazon’s business practices, Mitchell, of ILSR, thinks the best solution is arguably the most drastic.

“Policymakers could regulate Amazon’s fees — basically accept it as a regulated shopping monopoly, like a utility,” she said. “But I think a much better, more market-oriented approach is to break it up by splitting Amazon’s major divisions into stand-alone companies.”

Source: Amazon funds its empire by squeezing its marketplace sellers

 

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