CCA Goes After Pyramid Schemes

Tebelelo Pule
Tebelelo Pule

The Competition and Consumer Authority is currently investigating several cases that are the principal avenue that pyramid schemes promoters use to advertise their so-called 'business opportunity' such as WhatsApp Gifting, Mufhiwa and others.

Pyramid schemes and other forms of deceptive schemes such as multiplication and chain letter schemes are on the increase in Botswana.

Every day on social media platforms there is an invitation to consumers to participate in an arrangement that resembles a pyramid scheme in open contravention of the Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which prohibits participation in a pyramid and related schemes.

According to the competition authority’s (CA) acting Director of Consumer Protection, Mosetsana Manyelela, the organization has been scouring all social media platforms to monitor these unlawful activities in a bid to protect unsuspecting consumers from being lured into this intricate web of greed.

“We implore consumers to be vigilant and be suspicious of any scheme that promises unjustified returns. We urge consumers to report these to the authority than join and entrap themselves,”’ she said.

In readying itself to stem out this deceptive conduct, the authority has made overtures to sister organisations in the region that have dealt with similar challenges. The authority has also made preparatory work to ensure that perpetrators of this criminal conduct are being investigated and prosecuted. Further, they are collaborating with the Botswana Police Service (BPS) who are responsible for criminal investigation and possible referral to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

CA’s Director of Legal Services, Kesego Modongo, said the three parties recently discussed and clarified roles in respect of handling such investigations and the ideal steps that should be undertaken to ensure successful investigations and possible prosecution of such offences including the topical pyramid and related schemes.

“The success in investigating and possibly prosecuting those involved in unfair business practices with criminal sanctions including pyramid schemes requires a strong tripartite relationship between the CA, BPS and the DPP,” he said.

CA further cautioned people against participating in pyramid schemes noting that a person who participates in a pyramid or related schemes commits an offence under the Consumer Protection Act, and upon conviction, is liable to a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.

Section 9(1) of the Competition Act states that “a person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in a pyramid scheme, multiplication scheme; a chain letter scheme; or any other scheme declared as such by the Minister.

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