Expert MLM Attorney, Jeff Babener, explains when it is legal for direct selling companies to use earnings calculators to make earnings claims.
Interview with Expert Attorney – Are Earnings Calculators Legal?
Interviewer: Jeff, talk to us about earnings calculators because there are a lot of consultants out in the field who want to know is if there is an appropriate way to demonstrate earnings with a calculator.
Jeff Babener: Kris, we’ve had some problems in the direct selling industry in the past, particularly with the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General regarding earnings claims. Problems have risen when companies come up with assumptions and make claims about earnings potential.
Let’s assume you’re going to find five people, and they are going to do so much volume, and they’re going to find five people, who are also going to do so much volume… The claim is then made; if you recruit so many, and make so much in volume, then you’ll be making $10,000 a month. Now, that has been a problem in the absence of some disclosures of average earnings of distributors, average number of active distributors, what people can expect to make, etc.
But earnings claims are a different issue than earnings calculators. The issue that arises with earnings calculators is really an extension of what we used to see when potential distributors would go to a meeting and companies would say to them, “We want to show you how our compensation plan works, how it pays differently at different levels. We aren’t going to tell you what our hypothetical expectations are of what you can do, rather we are going to give you a piece of paper that shows how many people you think you could sponsor at this level, how many at this level, and so on. How many people do you think you can sponsor? What do you think their volume or production could be?” You make the assumptions and then you have a piece of paper and a chalkboard that shows you that that allows you to multiply and guess what you would make. You’re to make the calculations.
Today’s modern earnings calculator is doing nothing other than doing the calculation for you based on your expectations. Obviously there are some underlying assumptions, not of your productivity, or of your sponsoring ability, but of very basic things, for instance that a particular product sells for so many dollars. Those are basic assumptions which are incontrovertible. The earnings calculator then asks you, “What do you think you can do by way of production, by way of recruitment, what do you think your sales organization can do?” and then it helps you. It merely calculates what you would earn based on your assumptions.
Interviewer: So, if I were sitting at a seminar or sitting down with someone one-on-one, the important thing for me to know is that I’m not throwing hypothetical’s out there for them. I am saying that you have to answer these questions so that this device can help put out the results based on your situation and I’m not going to do any “winking,” leading you along, or encouraging you to put certain numbers in to boost your results. It’s got to be 100 percent about the person I’m talking to and what their goals are. And, that would be the appropriate way of using that tool?
Jeff Babener: That would be the credible way. Now someday, with every company, as they progress, they develop a large mass of statistics which indicates how people do, what percentage of people who join the company are active in making money, what is the average earnings are of people in the business. If the company would like to indicate: here’s how you might earn 5k in one month, the company has statistics to disclose what percentage of people actually earn that amount. But at an early point in time, it is difficult for companies to do that, so the earnings calculator is really the way to go. Someday, the company, having made these disclosures, will be able to actually present its own hypothetical’s.
For more information on earnings calculators, visit the following links:
Find us on our social networks:
And, as always, visit MLMLegal.com, the best MLM resource on the web.The next Starting and Running the Successful MLM Company Conference is quickly approaching! On February 21st and 22nd, 2013 we are hosting the MLM Conference for the 25th year! This is now our 63nd annual conference (held almost consistently three times per year over the last 24 years). All executives/owners of MLM, direct selling, network marking, and party plan companies are welcome to attend. This is the original MLM Startup Conference, hosted and perfected by direct selling industry expert, MLM Attorney Jeff Babener. Call 503-226-6600 or 800-231-2162 to register. Ask Charity how to get a discount! (Can’t make this event? Keep an eye out for our May and October conferences as well.)