Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers across the country about Maximum Business Concepts, a Phoenix-based company, also known as Merchant Referral Solutions (MRS) that targets unsuspecting consumers who are looking for a work-at-home opportunity.
According to BBB records, MRS began operating on August 31 of this year and has received significant file activity. Over 2200 consumer inquiries via telephone and web were processed by BBB since then, and over 700 of them in the last 30 days.
Merchant Referral Solutions contacts consumers via telephone and offers them an opportunity to work from home as an ‘affiliate,’ selling credit card terminals to merchants in their area. Once the consumer agrees to pay a monthly web hosting fee to sell their product, they are billed an additional amount for training materials that were not disclosed at the point of sale.
Complaints filed by consumers stem from refund issues to high pressure sales tactics. According to information in BBB files, customers purchased a business opportunity with MRS for $150 to $500 plus an additional $19.95 per month for a personal website. Complaints also allege that after the product was purchased, consumers were then contacted by affiliates of MRS and were pressured into purchasing an advertising campaign with costs up to $35,000.
MRS typically responds to complaints by stating they are not responsible for refunding their affiliates’ charges and that MRS charges are non-refundable.
MRS currently has an F rating with BBB due to the length of time the business has been operating, concerns about the industry in which it operates, and 21 complaints filed against the business, two of which were unresolved and three serious complaints. Additionally, the company has 12 pending complaints.
BBB encourages consumers considering a business opportunity to do their homework first and:
Look at the ad carefully. If it claims buyers can earn a certain income, then it must also give the number and percentage of previous purchasers who achieved the earnings.
Get earnings claims in writing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if the business opportunity costs $500 or more, then the promoter must back up the earnings claims in a written document. If it’s a work-at-home or other business opportunity that involves an investment less than $500, ask the promoter to put the earnings information in writing.
Interview previous purchasers in person, preferably at the location their business operates. The FTC requires business opportunity promoters to give potential purchasers the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least 10 previous purchasers who live the closest to the potential purchasers. Interviewing them can help reduce the risk of being misled by phone references.
Contact your Better Business Bureau both where the business opportunity promoter is located and where you live to find out whether there is any record of unresolved complaints. While a complaint record may indicate questionable businesses practices, a lack of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the promoter and the business opportunity don’t have problems. Unscrupulous dealers often change names and locations to hide history of complaints.
Consult an attorney, accountant, or other business advisor before you put any money down or sign any papers. Entering into a business opportunity can be costly, so it’s best to have an expert check out the contract first.
Take your time. Promoters of fraudulent business opportunities are likely to use high pressure sales tactics to get you to buy in. If the business opportunity is legitimate, it will still be around when you are ready to decide.
Never give your personal information to anyone offering you a business opportunity or work at home business. This includes bank account numbers and credit card information.
BBB also encourages consumers to ask the following questions to anyone contacting them about a business or work at home opportunity:
• What tasks will have to be performed? Ask that every step of the job be listed
• Will there be a salary paid or will the pay be based on commission?
• Who will be paying your salary or commission?
• When will the first paycheck be received?
• What is the total cost of the work-at-home program or business opportunity, including supplies, equipment, training materials and membership fees?
• What will be received in return for the money paid?
If a consumer has spent money and time on any of these programs and feels the company has misled them, a complaint can be filed with Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.azag.gov.