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Labatt warns against multi-level selling

19 September 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Foreign domestic workers who engage in multilevel marketing in Hong Kong, whether physically or online, may be in breach of their conditions of stay.

This was the warning aired by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre on separate occasions recently.

Labatt dela Torre first spoke out against the practice in a speech to participants at a forum co-organized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bulacan Chapter and Global Alliance on Sept 3.

“Multilevel marketing companies may be legal in the Philippines, but OFWs may be breaching their visa conditions if they engage in remunerative work (for pay) other than what is in their contracts,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

There are multilevel marketing companies that target migrant workers in Hong Kong and elsewhere to sell their products, which are mainly expensive cosmetics or wellness merchandise.

The OFWs are encouraged to join the networks, often through social media, with promises of good returns if they recruit other members, in addition to enjoying the benefits of products they sell.

The Immigration Department echoed the warning, in response to an inquiry by The SUN. Immigration reiterated that foreign domestic helpers cannot do part-time work, including online marketing, because it is against the law.

“FDHs can only provide full-time domestic service,” the Immigration official said.

“They cannot take up any part-time work because they may breach their conditions of stay and, if they do, we will prosecute them.”

Labatt Dela Torre said he had been warning OFWs about this offense at POLO’s post-arrival orientation seminars.

“Every PAOS is an occasion for me to warn them, not only about pyramiding and multilevel marketing, but about illegal work in general,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

Pyramiding, which is often disguised as a quick cash investment scheme, is illegal because it promises huge payback but sells no products and members get their investment back only if they can add more members to the network. The pyramid eventually collapses when no new recruits are found.

Dela Torre said pyramids are illegal per se, while multilevel marketing, whose business model is based on a pyramid, could be legal because products are sold.

“Even then, engaging in online business while in Hong Kong may be considered breach of condition of stay,” he said.

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