Texas

 

The Texas Pyramid Promotional Scheme statute provides that anyone who “contrives, prepares, establishes, operates, advertises, sells, or promotes a pyramid promotional scheme” is guilty of a felony.  The statute is problematical for several reasons.   First, it legalizes any scheme which has a “repurchase agreement” that requires the MLM company to repurchase products at 90% of their cost within a year of the purchase, provided that the products are in “unused, commercially resalable condition.” Repurchase agreements can exclude any product “sold as a nonreturnable, discontinued, seasonal, or special promotion item” and they do not have to apply to all business expenses incurred by the distributor.  The MLM company can deduct  “any consideration received by the purchaser for purchase of the products being returned.” This is ambiguous but probably refers to commissions the purchaser may have received based on the purchases of the products.  

Second, the definitions of “participate” and “promoting a pyramid scheme” have the effect of criminalizing the conduct of ordinary distributors, who are induced and trained to recruit other participants.   Such a clause ignores one of the essential features of MLM-style pyramid schemes, in which most participants are not only victims, they are perpetrators.

Tex. Bus. & Com. Code §17.461.  Pyramid Promotional Scheme

   (a) In this section:

   (1) “Compensation” means payment of money, a financial benefit, or another thing of value. The term does not include payment based on sale of a product to a person, including a participant, who purchases the product for actual use or consumption.

   (2) “Consideration” means the payment of cash or the purchase of a product. The term does not include:

      (A) a purchase of a product furnished at cost to be used in making a sale and not for resale;

      (B) a purchase of a product subject to a repurchase agreement that complies with Subsection (b); or

      (C) time and effort spent in pursuit of a sale or in a recruiting activity.

   (3) “Participate” means to contribute money into a pyramid promotional scheme without promoting, organizing, or operating the scheme.

   (4) “Product” means a good, a service, or intangible property of any kind.

   (5) “Promoting a pyramid promotional scheme” means:

      (A) inducing or attempting to induce one or more other persons to participate in a pyramid promotional scheme; or

      (B) assisting another person in inducing or attempting to induce one or more other persons to participate in a pyramid promotional scheme, including by providing references.

   (6) “Pyramid promotional scheme” means a plan or operation by which a person gives consideration for the opportunity to receive compensation that is derived primarily from a person’s introduction of other persons to participate in the plan or operation rather than from the sale of a product by a person introduced into the plan or operation.

(b) To qualify as a repurchase agreement for the purposes of Subsection (a)(2)(B), an agreement must be an enforceable agreement by the seller to repurchase, on written request of the purchaser and not later than the first anniversary of the purchaser’s date of purchase, all unencumbered products that are in an unused, commercially resalable condition at a price not less than 90 percent of the amount actually paid by the purchaser for the products being returned, less any consideration received by the purchaser for purchase of the products being returned. A product that is no longer marketed by the seller is considered resalable if the product is otherwise in an unused, commercially resalable condition and is returned to the seller not later than the first anniversary of the purchaser’s date of purchase, except that the product is not considered resalable if before the purchaser purchased the product it was clearly disclosed to the purchaser that the product was sold as a nonreturnable, discontinued, seasonal, or special promotion item.

(c) A person commits an offense if the person contrives, prepares, establishes, operates, advertises, sells, or promotes a pyramid promotional scheme. An offense under this subsection is a state jail felony.

(d) It is not a defense to prosecution for an offense under this section that the pyramid promotional scheme involved both a franchise to sell a product and the authority to sell additional franchises if the emphasis of the scheme is on the sale of additional franchises.

HISTORY: Enacted by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 463 (H.B. 2771), §2, effective September 1, 1995.

Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 17.46. Deceptive Trade Practices Unlawful

(a) False, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful and are subject to action by the consumer protection division under Sections 17.47, 17.58, 17.60, and 17.61 of this code.

(b) Except as provided in Subsection (d) of this section, the term “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices” includes, but is not limited to, the following acts:

(1) passing off goods or services as those of another;

(2) causing confusion or misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services;

(3) causing confusion or misunderstanding as to affiliation, connection, or association with, or certification by, another;

(4) using deceptive representations or designations of geographic origin in connection with goods or services;

(5) representing that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities which they do not have or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection which he does not;

(6) representing that goods are original or new if they are deteriorated, reconditioned, reclaimed, used, or secondhand;

(7) representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another;

(8) disparaging the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representation of facts;

(9) advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised;

(10) advertising goods or services with intent not to supply a reasonable expectable public demand, unless the advertisements disclosed a limitation of quantity;

(11) making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amount of price reductions;

(12) representing that an agreement confers or involves rights, remedies, or obligations which it does not have or involve, or which are prohibited by law;

(13) knowingly making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the need for parts, replacement, or repair service;

(14) misrepresenting the authority of a salesman, representative or agent to negotiate the final terms of a consumer transaction;

(15) basing a charge for the repair of any item in whole or in part on a guaranty or warranty instead of on the value of the actual repairs made or work to be performed on the item without stating separately the charges for the work and the charge for the warranty or guaranty, if any;

(16) disconnecting, turning back, or resetting the odometer of any motor vehicle so as to reduce the number of miles indicated on the odometer gauge;

(17) advertising of any sale by fraudulently representing that a person is going out of business;

(18) advertising, selling, or distributing a card which purports to be a prescription drug identification card issued under Section 4151.152, Insurance Code, in accordance with rules adopted by the commissioner of insurance, which offers a discount on the purchase of health care goods or services from a third party provider, and which is not evidence of insurance coverage, unless:

(A) the discount is authorized under an agreement between the seller of the card and the provider of those goods and services or the discount or card is offered to members of the seller;

(B) the seller does not represent that the card provides insurance coverage of any kind; and

(C) the discount is not false, misleading, or deceptive;

(19) using or employing a chain referral sales plan in connection with the sale or offer to sell of goods, merchandise, or anything of value, which uses the sales technique, plan, arrangement, or agreement in which the buyer or prospective buyer is offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise or goods and in connection with the purchase receives the seller’s promise or representation that the buyer shall have the right to receive compensation or consideration in any form for furnishing to the seller the names of other prospective buyers if receipt of the compensation or consideration is contingent upon the occurrence of an event subsequent to the time the buyer purchases the merchandise or goods;

(20) representing that a guarantee or warranty confers or involves rights or remedies which it does not have or involve, provided, however, that nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to expand the implied warranty of merchantability as defined in Sections 2.314 through 2.318 and Sections 2A.212 through 2A.216 to involve obligations in excess of those which are appropriate to the goods;

(21) promoting a pyramid promotional scheme, as defined by Section 17.461;

(22) representing that work or services have been performed on, or parts replaced in, goods when the work or services were not performed or the parts replaced;

(23) filing suit founded upon a written contractual obligation of and signed by the defendant to pay money arising out of or based on a consumer transaction for goods, services, loans, or extensions of credit intended primarily for personal, family, household, or agricultural use in any county other than in the county in which the defendant resides at the time of the commencement of the action or in the county in which the defendant in fact signed the contract; provided, however, that a violation of this subsection shall not occur where it is shown by the person filing such suit he neither knew or had reason to know that the county in which such suit was filed was neither the county in which the defendant resides at the commencement of the suit nor the county in which the defendant in fact signed the contract;

(24) failing to disclose information concerning goods or services which was known at the time of the transaction if such failure to disclose such information was intended to induce the consumer into a transaction into which the consumer would not have entered had the information been disclosed;

(25) using the term “corporation,” “incorporated,” or an abbreviation of either of those terms in the name of a business entity that is not incorporated under the laws of this state or another jurisdiction;

(26) selling, offering to sell, or illegally promoting an annuity contract under Chapter 22, Acts of the 57th Legislature, 3rd Called Session, 1962 (Article 6228a-5, Vernon’s Texas Civil Statutes), with the intent that the annuity contract will be the subject of a salary reduction agreement, as defined by that Act, if the annuity contract is not an eligible qualified investment under that Act or is not registered with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas as required by Section 8A of that Act; or

(27) taking advantage of a disaster declared by the governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, by:

(A) selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or

(B) demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine, or another necessity.

(c) (1) It is the intent of the legislature that in construing Subsection (a) of this section in suits brought under Section 17.47 of this subchapter the courts to the extent possible will be guided by Subsection (b) of this section and the interpretations given by the Federal Trade Commission and federal courts to Section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act [15 U.S.C.A. § 45(a)(1)].

(2) In construing this subchapter the court shall not be prohibited from considering relevant and pertinent decisions of courts in other jurisdictions.

(d) For the purposes of the relief authorized in Subdivision (1) of Subsection (a) of Section 17.50 of this subchapter, the term “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices” is limited to the acts enumerated in specific subdivisions of Subsection (b) of this section.