Lure of easy money can leave you pounds 100 adrift: Sue Fieldman finds a sting in the small print of a pyramid-selling plan

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The Independent Online
EARN an extra pounds 60,000 this year for just a few hours work a month. Sounds too good to be true.

Not according to 'The Key To Success and Wealth Programme'.

You need to do very little work and have very little capital. The system has been 'beautifully refined as a result of many years of research and development'.

So much so that 'probably the most strenuous part intellectually will be keeping a record of your earnings]'

Hundreds of professional people are already doing it. But this great opportunity is not, of course, open to everyone.

The consumer research department of the Key plan organisation has selected only 'the active business opportunity seeker'.

The department has sought out those who 'already enjoy a high income'. Furthermore, from the interest they have displayed in business opportunities in the past, they are already 'a success in their chosen field'.

Ian Partridge is a success in his chosen field but perhaps not quite in the way the Key plan anticipates. He is a full-time rector, who lives in a vicarage near Lincoln.

He said: 'I have no idea why I received all this information. I am hardly an active business opportunity seeker. And as for earning a high income - I receive the standard national scale for a rector.'

Eric Gare is 66 and a pensioner from Devon. He recently received exactly the same Key plan literature.

He said: 'I am a fire brigade pensioner, who assists my wife to run a village sub-post office. I failed in my attempt to run a village shop and had to close down that part of the business due to high and continuing losses.

'All of which hardly makes me 'a success in my chosen field'. I really object to this type of mail shot.'

To join the plan you set up a standing order of 12 payments of pounds 50 a month. You then receive a start-up information pack.

Instalments of the 'business plan' follow at monthly intervals. If you follow the advice given, you could 'even make pounds 5,000 in your first month of operation'.

Mr Gare received his Key plan literature from KB Enterprises of PO Box 182, Hayes, Middlesex. One of the principals of the firm is Nigel Brown. Mr Brown would not divulge how much money he has made from the scheme since he joined in February or March. Neither would he say how many people he has enrolled at pounds 50 a month.

He said: 'I have made a fair amount. I have reached my intended goal and surpassed it. It is not just pyramid selling. It is teaching you to live life with a different outlook.'

There is a money-back guarantee - of sorts - with the scheme. According to the promotional literature 'you can cancel your subscription with no penalty'.

But the small print of the guarantee says if you cancel within the first six months you lose your first and your last instalment - a total of pounds 100.

Mr Brown said he had not had any need to give anyone their money back.

Meanwhile, we contacted Ashu Kher of AK Publishing in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland. Mr Kher sent the Key plan literature to the Reverend Partridge.

Mr Kher, who is a student, has been involved in the scheme for about a month and had paid his first pounds 50. Was he now making his fortune? He said: 'So far it is OK.'

Then we drew his attention to the 'money-back' guarantee. Presumably he knew he could lose pounds 100?

Mr Kher said: 'Oh, my God I did not see that. I will stop my payments straight away. My advice is do not bother with the idea, forget it. I will send all the money back to the people who have paid me.'

One person is prepared to reveal how much he has made from the Key plan. With the promotional literature there is a letter of recommendation from a Charles Cust of CMC Consultants, Hamlin Lane, Exeter.

According to Mr Cust, 'within exactly 10 days of entering the business' he earned pounds 3,196.80 for 'virtually no work at all'. In his opinion, the claim of pounds 60,000 earnings is 'very conservative'.

He said: 'Now that I've gone into the business properly I anticipate making at least twice that this year, so 1992 is looking up.'

We telephoned Mr Cust on numerous occasions. The telephone just keeps ringing and ringing. Mr Cust's new-found wealth obviously does not extend to buying an answering machine.

(Photograph omitted)