This is a question that might take one thousand pages to answer. You will find endless articles and videos at www.mlmlegal.com and www.mlmattorney.com on differentiating a legitimate direct selling company from a pyramid scheme.
Key features of a legitimate compensation plan include a program which offers quality product/service at a reasonable price, which is purchased by ultimate users (of end-consumers), who use the product/service and who purchased it because they want it. The product stands on its own in the marketplace as opposed to purchases or payments that where the predominant intent is merely to buy into the program. Pyramids are characterized by bogus products (think wishes and prayers), high investment from consultants to buy-in to the company, inflated pricing, inventory loading and where the primary intent of the compensation plan is to cause individuals to pay money for the right to qualify for the program, causing others to do the same and so on.
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