Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged the US owners of WorldVentures Taiwan (環宇全球公司), Kenneth Edward Head and Jonathon Starks McKillip, with contravening the Multi-Level Marketing Supervision Act (多層次傳銷管理法), which protects people from pyramid schemes.
On the international business registry, the former is listed as Eddie Head, president and chief strategy officer of WorldVentures Holding Ltd, while the latter was listed as a director until he resigned in 2011.
WorldVentures Holding is WorldVentures Taiwan’s parent company and is registered in Cyprus.
The company’s international Web site says that WorldVentures has been the world’s leading direct seller of vacation club memberships for more than 10 years, offering travel services and “DreamTrip” packages at discount prices.
People need to pay NT$8,800 (US$280.7) to join WorldVentures Taiwan as a basic member, in addition to a monthly membership fee of NT$2,000, prosecutors said, adding that people with gold, platinum and higher memberships enjoy more perks and benefits.
The company began operating in Taipei in May 2015, prosecutors said, adding that last year it had about 1,300 members in Taiwan.
News reports last year said that WorldVentures had 500,000 members in 28 countries.
Prosecutors said that WorldVentures Taiwan operates like a classic pyramid scheme, in which club members are asked to sell travel products, and recruit friends and family as lower-level members to earn points and waive their monthly fees.
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) last year launched an investigation, after the Travel Agent Association reported that customers were complaining that WorldVentures Taiwan was contravening travel industry regulations and not fulfilling its promises.
The commission in June last year fined WorldVentures Taiwan NT$3.6 million, citing evidence that the company had contravened business regulations by engaging in questionable multi-level marketing schemes.
The case was then passed on to prosecutors.
When the company launched in Taiwan, executives applied to register as a multi-level direct sales business with the FTC, but also applied to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau for a tourism business license.
The bureau did not approve the license, saying that “direct sales” was entirely different from tourism, so the company was not allowed to establish a travel agency.
Thereafter, WorldVentures Taiwan stressed that it was a direct sales and club membership business that mainly offered recreational activities and holiday travel packages.
According to US news reports and anti-fraud Web sites, 21 lawsuits were filed against WorldVentures in California, Texas, Louisiana and Delaware from 2008 to last year.
Plaintiffs in a 2017 lawsuit in California said that WorldVentures rewards recruiting over travel package sales; that it is nothing more than a Web site that compiles travel package plans from other sites, with prices in excess of popular travel sites such as Expedia and Travelocity; and that its income disclosure statement is misleading and confusing.
The company has been banned from doing business in Norway because the government found that it was an illegal pyramid scheme.
TENSE SITUATION: If the storm does not bring rain, Taiwan might have to wait until next month amid water scarcity in the center and south, an expert said Typhoon Surigae is to bring rain to the nation’s east coast and mountainous areas in central and southern Taiwan from Wednesday to Friday, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. As of 2pm yesterday, the typhoon’s center was 1,170km southeast of Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), Taiwan’s southernmost tip. The radius of the storm was 280km, and it was moving northwest at 9kph, with a maximum wind speed of 198kph. The bureau forecasts that the storm would switch to a northerly direction when approaching the east coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines on Wednesday, CWB forecaster Lin Ding-yi (林定宜) said, adding that Surigae would
SEEKING CLARITY: Some members of the US delegation asked KMT legislators in a meeting to address their party’s position on the so-called ‘1992 consensus,’ sources said A US delegation tasked by US President Joe Biden to reaffirm the country’s commitment to its partnership with Taiwan yesterday wrapped up a three-day visit to Taipei. Former US senator Chris Dodd, former US deputy secretaries of state Richard Armitage and James Steinberg, and US Department of State Office of Taiwan Coordination Director Dan Biers departed at 11:20am on a private jet. The members of the delegation, all friends of Biden, arrived on Wednesday and met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and other government officials. During the three-day visit, the delegation also met with six members of the Legislative
Taipei’s street names should reflect a “Taiwanese spirit,” Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said in an online video released yesterday, in which he asked why many of them are named after locations in China. In a three-minute video uploaded to a Facebook page called “Taiwanese Uncle Ko Wen-je” (台灣阿北柯文哲), the mayor suggested changing the names of Taipei streets. The page’s banner was a photograph of Ko on Jade Mountain’s (玉山) main peak. The page was closed at about noon, about four hours after it was made public. Ko said that street names in the capital named “Ningxia,” “Tibet,” “Beiping” — an old name for
‘AN EXCUSE’: The intent of Beijing’s incursions was ‘intimidation and coercion,’ a senior US official said, adding that China was using the US to justify its actions Chinese carrier drills and stepped-up incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in the past few weeks are meant to send a message to Washington to stand down and back off, security sources in Taipei said. The increased activity — which China, unusually, described as “combat drills” on Wednesday — has raised alarm in both Taipei and Washington, although security officials do not see it as a sign of an imminent attack. Rather, at least some of the exercises are practicing “access denial” maneuvers to prevent foreign forces from coming to Taipei’s defense in a war, one official familiar with Taiwan’s security