Illegal Advertising of Work from Home Opportunities in South Africa

Illegal Advertising of Work from Home Opportunities in South Africa

Regulations to limit the advertising of “Work-from-home” opportunities were set by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2007. They were welcomed by advertising watchdog body the Advertising Standards Authority. A large number of complaints about these adverts had been received by the ASA. Most of the time, people didn’t get paid what they were promised in the adverts for these opportunities. The regulations were introduced to police this activity.

Promoters of such scams targeted people seeking extra income. Instead of helping people make money, the fraudsters used various tricks to take the victims’ money and left them with nothing of value. Consumers were issued with information on how to make money instead of actual employment. An advertisement would request consumers to start a business from home, and, upon responding to an advertisement, consumers were directed by promoters to deposit a sum of money into the promoter’s account, instead of being offered a job.

Some schemes sold information of no value (these are the worst kind of work-from-home scams). Some pretended to provide skills, which turned out to be unmarketable, and other schemes relied on recruiting or luring others into joining the scheme on offer. It was found that most promoters of “work-from-home” opportunities did not truthfully identify themselves, their firms or their products in their advertisements.

According to South African law such misleading work-from-home opportunities represent unfair business practices which are illegal, and may not appear  in newspapers, magazines, other print and electronic media, or any other advertising method.

Such illegal advertisements targeted people who are willing to do, among others:

* Typing work
* Addressing envelopes and/or
* Addressing (typing or writing) labels and/or
* Filling of envelopes and/or
* Administrative opportunities
* Compiling data
* Direct selling of intangible schemes purporting to generate income

Contravention of the minister’s order is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine not exceeding R200,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or both a fine and imprisonment.


The DTI regulation referred to above has now been largely superseded by the Consumer Protection Act of 2008, specifically Section 37, which refers to Alternative Work Schemes, and says:

“A person must not make a false representation with respect to the availability, or extent of availability, actual or potential profitability, risk or other material aspect of the
work, business or activity involved in any arrangement of an activity for gain…”

It further prescribes the wording and form of any advertisement aimed at providing such work. Advertisement MUST contain at least the following information:

*The full name, or registered business name, of the person promoting the matter
*Full contact details of the place where the advertiser conducts his business, and
*A description of the nature of the work, business, activity or investment.

No fees may be charged by anyone conducting business in this manner, unless the person being charged has been assigned and performed the contemplated work, business, activity, or made or received the contemplated investment.