So says a Belgian Appeal Court about American direct selling/network marketing company, Herbalife, a company with thousands of distributors in more than 80 countries.
In a ruling, December 2, 2013, the Court of Appeal in Brussels, came down like a sledge hammer on a lower court ruling of November, 2011 by the Brussels Commercial Court.** (Test-Aankoop v. Herbalife International Belgium NV, A.R. 2004/7787). The Appeal Court categorically reversed a lower court finding that Herbalife was a pyramid. To the contrary, it found the company to be in compliance with Belgian law and non-binding guidance that it referenced from the European Directive on direct selling.
**See a translated copy of the actual Belgian Court of Appeal Herbalife ruling.
Although a European court ruling, the core issue of "recognition of validity of personal use by direct selling distributors" has dominated discussion about the legitimacy of direct selling companies in the U.S. and internationally for two decades, and the import of this case and its discussion cannot be underestimated in its potential impact on future U.S. and international cases which distinguish legitimate direct selling from pyramid schemes.
The Belgian Lawsuit and the Lower Court Ruling
Based on a lawsuit brought by a nonprofit group, Test-Aankoop, in 2004, the lower court held Herbalife to be violative of Belgian law prohibiting pyramid schemes, the WMPC, the Belgian Law on Unfair Commercial Practices. The applicable pyramid law, as described by the Belgian Court of Appeal is as follows...
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