Sherab Lhamo   

A week ago, a woman invested Nu 24,000, after her friends influenced her to invest in a foreign company. She was convinced when told that she would earn in US dollars when she adds new members while viewing and clicking on the products on their website. 

The woman said she received USD 9 (Nu 753), when she clicked on nine product images daily. In a week she was able to earn USD 87. She said she could withdraw the money whenever she wanted. 

That was how the woman was introduced to Puth Group, now an illegal pyramid scheme. The members have an investment choice ranging from Nu 5,000 to Nu 20,000. The returns depend on the amount invested. 

Other people have shared similar experiences of being able to earn around Nu 800 in a week. They shared that if one is serious about investing in the Puth Group, they earn around USD 100 to 200 monthly.

 The story is the same with a new member providing their details like mobile number, bank name, bank account and citizenship identity card number. On their website is a feature for members to recharge money, which gives them access to unlock products from which they start to earn.

The Puth Group is registered as a retail sale via mail order or via internet (E-commerce)in the name Phuntsho Wangdi. On their website, Puth Group is shown as a legal e-commerce company established in Colorado, USA in 2020.

On Tuesday, the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (CCAA) announced Puth Group as a pyramid scheme.

On April 30, CCAA, while publishing statistics of unethical business practice, suspected one business of being a pyramid scheme and started investigating. An official said the licence holder must have been misusing the licence.

As per the trade department’s guidelines on E-commerce 2019, licensees must comply with rights of consumer duties and obligations of business entities laid out in the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012 and Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations (CPRR), 2015.

Establishing, operating or promoting pyramid promotional schemes 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 is classified as unfair trade practice and therefore illegal, as per the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations 2015.

According to a press release issued by the CCAA, such schemes are designed to mislead people, and are fundamentally unsustainable —prone to eventually collapse. This leaves members without a promised return on their investment.

Meanwhile, the CCAA urged people to refrain from engaging in any form of involvement in this scheme. “Individuals found still promoting and operating this scheme shall be dealt with in accordance with the laws,”  as stated in the press release.