(First published in Norwegian 2 Nov 2005)
By Pia Gaarder
By means of regular monthly payments of US$49 the members can buy three small trees and 3 litres organic fertiliser, PlantPower, which is claimed to increase the soil’s yield in an almost miraculous manner.
The members then donate two of the trees and the fertiliser to developing countries, where Green Planet’s collaborators are supposed to distribute the fertiliser and run tree-planting projects that prevent erosion. The monthly payments are therefore supposed to ensure tree-planting projects and increase food production in developing countries.
The third tree becomes part of the members’ own “plantation” and is to provide the member with a future yield from the timber or from various products from the trees. Some of the profits produced by Green Planet as a whole is also to be used for various humanitarian measures. The members themselves can also choose to channel parts of their profit to humanitarian measures.
Green Planet also offers its members to join a series of other Green Planet projects that are claimed to have good prospects of making a profit. Moreover, it is possible to buy various tree packages to increase the extent of their own “plantation”, and thus also future profits.
As in all companies based on network sales (network marketing), the members’ possibilities for earnings lie in the sales provisions. A large part of the monthly payments are therefore, according to the description at the company’s web site, channelled as sales provisions back into the network of members who have recruited each other. This system goes by the term “triple binary plan” and “2 x 15 matrix”.
Provided that one has recruited six active members, Green Planet promises already at this point that the monthly earnings will exceed the expenses. To make this math problem work out, the monthly payments must to a large extent be used to pay provisions to a complicated network of other members.
It is especially these possibilities for earnings that made the Norwegian Gaming and Foundation Authority wonder whether the members bought real goods and services or whether they bought the right to recruit other members – as is the case in pyramid games.
The Gaming Authority
Many have wondered what Green Planet actually is up to. After several enquiries and a pilot study, Green Planet was earlier this year examined more closely by the Gaming Authority, suspected of being a concealed pyramid game.
The Gaming Authority started its enquiry in March 2005. Almost 3 months later the Authority concluded that Green Planet is a pyramid game and that the activity with regard to Green Planet Binary and Green Planet 2 x 15 matrix had to cease. In a letter dated 20 May 2005 the company received warning of an injunction. But the Gaming Authority reversed the decision a month later. In its final conclusion of 24 June the Gaming Authority ascertained that Green Planet’s activities are not at variance with Paragraph 16 in the laws of the Gaming Authority.
The letter with the Gaming Authority’s conclusion about Green Planet gives insight into activities that changed in correlation with the Gaming Authority’s enquiry. In fact, Green Planet changed both the description of its own activities and the contents of its web site as the correspondence with the Gaming Authority progressed.
The Gaming Authority wrote in its conclusion that it was difficult to survey and to understand the concept of Green Planet International Inc.: “Some of the information changed continuously during the enquiry”, and “Some of the information on the web pages has been downright misleading with regard to the information later submitted by the company.”
“It is typical of a certain type of a network company to place itself in a grey area. And it is a familiar move by firms that have similarities with pyramid games that they change character continuously. It is also difficult to obtain information,” says counsellor Kjartan Møller, who was in charge of the Green Planet case with regard to Norwatch.
In addition, great changes and a division of Green Planet took place last year. Some of the information the Gaming Authority had based its decision on was therefore, according to the company management, no longer valid for the Norwegian part of the Green Planet concept.
On the basis of information Green Planet gradually presented, the Gaming Authority concluded that the company’s information indicates that it operates activities that, at least in part, are based on the sale of goods and services and therefore is not affected by the pyramid regulations.