The commission-hungry sales force of the largest independent telephone firm has become the latest victim of the economic downturn, with commission rates slashed by 75 per cent. City Telecom's move comes despite a boom in several firms using a similar, multi-level marketing system. The company this week told its 2,000 self-employed distributors that from February 1, commission rates would be slashed. In a letter, City Telecom said it would cut the commission on calls made by clients signed up by distributors from two per cent to 0.5 per cent of call revenue. They would be paid 0.25 per cent, rather than one per cent, of call revenue from clients recruited by people the distributors had signed up to sell the service. The company refused to comment yesterday, but its letter said the move was due to the economic downturn 'which has led to a heavy load on all sectors', increased competition from Hongkong Telecom, and rising costs. Distributor Billy Yuen Chi-ming said the company's reasons did not make sense. 'In the next two years, every telecom company will make large amounts of money,' he said. Mr Yuen said a successful distributor could make $50,000 a month. Under the new commission system, that will fall to $12,500. Firms running similar sales schemes to City Telecom's said they were doing well. Angela Keung Cheung Lai-ching of Amway Hong Kong said more people were looking for a second income so were becoming distributors. Angela Lau Ming-yan of skin care and cosmetics seller Nu Skin Hong Kong Inc also reported a rise in the level of interest. City Telecom has become the largest independent phone company thanks to its low rates on international calls provided through call-back technology. It has more than 350,000 customers, 16,000 of them companies, and has annual turnover of $665 million.