The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) has clarified the new entrants of MagneSSa Bhutan and Oriens Bhutan must get their membership fees refunded if they have not received the products.
The official ban on operation of MagneSSa Bhutan and Oriens Bhutan schemes left their new entrants uncertain about getting the products delivered or money refunded. It takes weeks from the date of joining to get the products delivered from India.
Chief Programme Officer with OCP, Jigme Dorji, said that people should seek redressal if they feel that they were genuinely coerced into the business.
He said that the OCP will look into such complaints case by case and that all may not have joined due to coercion. “If someone has joined the scheme with the knowledge of risks, that’s a different case,” he said.
“If someone feels that he or she is genuinely forced with misleading information, we will deal with the case as per the rules and regulations,” Jigme Dorji said. He said that among the most affected would be recent entrants.
Rule 38(xiii) of Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations (CPRR) 2015 describes establishing, operating or promoting a pyramid promotional scheme where a consumer receives compensation that is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme rather than from the sale or consumption of products as an unfair trade practice.
The mode of business operation of MagneSSa Bhutan and Oriens Bhutan requires a person to register as a member by purchasing products worth Nu 38,500 and Nu 6,000 respectively. Each entrant should introduce new members to receive bonus and other incentives depending on the increase in the number of downline members.
An Oriens Bhutan member, expressing regrets for joining the pyramid business posted on social media saying that he paid the membership fee but was yet to receive the products. He asked what will happen to my money.
A member of MagneSSa Bhutan said that the decision from the OCP under the economic affairs ministry should have come early. He said that it was difficult to get the products delivered and that he did not get all the products that he was supposed to receive.
“I didn’t put any downline members. People are reluctant to join as the membership fee is too high,” he said.
In some cases, multiple members have joined the scheme from a single family. A member of MagneSSa said that she joined the scheme to help her daughter increase her downline membership.
“I didn’t look for new members,” she said, adding that she didn’t receive all the products she had paid for.
The OCP started investigation on whether the businesses were pyramid schemes in April this year. The office banned both schemes with immediate effect through a public notification on October 21 after its investigation found that both were pyramid schemes.
The OCP estimates that there are about 2,000 and 8,000 MagneSSa Bhutan and Oriens Bhutan members respectively.