HONOLULU – BBB is warning consumers about a Phoenix-based company offering work-at-home business opportunities selling credit card terminals to local merchants. According to BBB reports, Merchant Referral Solutions—also known as MRS Referral Solutions and Superior Enterprise Solutions—began operating just a few months ago and has already racked up 30 complaints, with another dozen pending. Residents on Oahu and Maui are among those who have filed complaints about the company’s misleading presentation, refund issues and high-pressure sales tactics.
Merchant Referral Solutions contacts people by phone with an offer to work from home as an “affiliate” selling its product to local businesses. After paying between $150 and $500 for the business opportunity, consumers are told they must also pay a monthly fee for their own Web site to sell the credit card terminals. Along with the unexpected Web site expense, people have complained to BBB about charges for training materials that were not disclosed, agreed to, or delivered. Consumers also report that MRS affiliates pressured them to invest even more money on the business opportunity. A Kahuku resident paid $10,000 for an additional “call blast” service and others as much as $35,000 for an advertising campaign.
Merchant Referral Solutions contends that its charges are non-refundable and the company is not responsible for refunding charges from its affiliates. Based on the short amount of time it has been in business, the number of complaints filed against it and the company’s failure to respond to complaints, BBB gives Merchant Referral Solutions an F rating.
BBB encourages consumers considering a business opportunity to do their homework first and offers the following advice:
- Look at the ad carefully. If it claims buyers can earn a certain income, then it must also give the number and percentage of those who actually made that much money.
- Get earnings claims in writing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if the business opportunity costs $500 or more, the promoter must back up the earnings claims in a written document. If the opportunity requires an investment less than $500, ask the promoter to put the earnings information in writing.
- Get job and payment details:
o What tasks will have to be performed? Ask that every step of the job be listed.
o Will there be a salary paid or will the pay be based on commission?
o Who will be paying your salary or commission?
o When will the first paycheck be received?
o What is the total cost of the work-at-home program or business opportunity, including supplies, equipment, training materials and membership fees?
o What will be received in return for the money paid?
- Interview previous affiliates in person. 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.
- 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.
Consumers who believe they’ve been misled and spent money on this or any other work-at-home job opportunity can file a complaint online at bbb.org.