1979 FTC vs. Amway Case: Top 10 Facts

In this post, we are going to review the 1979 FTC vs. Amway case

If you are involved with any multilevel marketing company, you should take a moment and say thanks to Amway for their victory against the FTC.

If not for this ruling, multilevel marketing just might have been illegal in today’s United States.

The case was a long one. Essentially, it was a test case that would define the business world as we now know it today.

While I cannot go into every single item within this case, there are certain facts that we all should be aware of.

1979 FTC vs Amway Case

Top 10 Facts from the 1979 FTC vs. Amway Case

In today’s post, I am going to provide the top 10 facts from the 1979 FTC vs. Amway case.

Fact #1: It lasted for 4-years

While many would assume a case such as this would only last just a matter of months at the longest, this case dragged out for a very long time. It first entered the court dockets on March 25th, 1975 and was finalized on May 8th, 1979.

Fact #2: A plethora of lawyers were involved

Both the Federal Trade Commission and Amway Corporation had many attorneys representing them.

Federal Trade Commission

  • Michael Goldenberg

  • Joseph S. Brownman

  • B. Milele Archibald

  • D. Stuart Cameron

  • Mary Lou Steptoe

Amway Corporation

Fact #3: The complaint by the FTC alleged 5 violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act by Amway Corporation

The counts the FTC claimed against Amway Corporation were:

  1. That Amway engages in resale price maintenance.
  2. That Amway has their customer base among distributors, and that they restrict the distributor’s supply source and the outlets for resale.
  3. That Amway restricts distributor’s advertising.
  4. That Amway misrepresented that substantial income can be made by distributors with geometrical increases.
  5. That Amway misrepresented distributorship profitability by failing to disclose business expenses and high turnover rates.

Fact #4: Amway wins the case

It took 4-years, but the final ruling said that while Amway is a pyramid scheme, it is not an illegal pyramid scheme.

Fact #5: Headhunting is a prime determination for an illegal pyramid scheme

The process of “headhunting” was one of the primary issues looked at in the Amway case. It was determined that Amway did not require entry fees, which is what headhunting stands for. While some multilevel marketing companies have distributors purchase business starter kits, they are receiving something for their money. If a fee was charged without any tangible item in return, that would be headhunting.

Fact #6: Amway receives orders from FTC

While it was determined that Amway did not engage in an illegal pyramid scheme, they did receive certain orders from the FTC. They were:

  • Stop allocating customers from among the distributor base.

  • Stop misrepresenting profits or sales. Stop implying anything other than average results, and the average results must be shown in a conspicuous manner.

  • Stop retail price fixing.

  • Print a disclaimer on suggested retail price lists.

Fact #7: Amway uses a safeguards rules

With the ruling, Amway developed a set of safeguards rules that many other multilevel marketing companies also use. They are:

  1. Distributors are part of the 10 retail customer policy. It requires representatives to have 10 sales to retail customers to be able to receive commissions on sales made by their team members.

  2. Distributors must sell a minimum of 70% of their previously purchased products before they can place a new order.

  3. Amway has a buy-back policy for unsold and unused products. It includes a slight restocking fee, and there are maximum time limits.

Fact #8: Amway fined $100,000

In 1986, Amway was found to be in violation of the 1979 ruling. In an advertisement, Amway exaggerated distributor earnings and they were fined $100,000. They have followed this rule closely ever since.

Fact #9: This case has become the standard for measuring multilevel marketing companies

It has become widely understood that the 1979 FTC vs. Amway case has become the standard in the United States in judging if multilevel marketing companies are legal or illegal.

The wise MLM start-ups research Amway and imitate their pattern so they stay within the law. And, the FTC uses this case in further determinations.

Fact #10: Influences the Direct Selling Association

When companies join the Direct Selling Association, they use the 1979 FTC vs. Amway case to instill in these companies the proper techniques to use in their multilevel marketing companies. They also closely monitor companies to make sure they are within the guidelines that this case showed.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

  1. Top 20 Amway Products
  2. Top 20 Amway Motivational Organizations
  3. Top 27 Amway Diamonds of All Time
  4. World Wide Dream Builders Review
  5. My Experience in Amway

Amway Helped Legitimize the Network Marketing Industry

Final Thoughts

This case opened the United States to multilevel marketing as a viable business opportunity. When you are considering joining a company, it is wise to look at the 1979 FTC vs. Amway case to make sure the company you are joining is within the legal boundaries.

What are your thoughts on this case? Do you agree or disagree with the FTC’s findings?

If you have additional facts you would like to add to this post, just post them in the comments area below. If you have any questions, you can post them there too, and I will do my best to provide you an answer.

Disclaimer: Neither I nor the Online MLM Community is affiliated in any way or form with Amway. This is not a paid review. It is written strictly for your information.  Amway is a registered trademark owned by the company.


  1. Legitimate Direct Selling vs. Illegal Pyramid Schemes
  2. In re Amway Corp.
  3. Federal Trade Commission – Pyramid Schemes
  4. The Landmark Amway Case
chuck holmes


Chuck Holmes
Network Marketing Professional (since 2002)
Author, Blogger, & Entrepreneur

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2 thoughts on “1979 FTC vs. Amway Case: Top 10 Facts”

  1. Every distributor in EVERY company in our industry should be required to familiarize themselves with this case. Every serious distributor should also send a big thank you to Amway for what they did for the rest of the industry.

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