The State Council ordered government departments to implement, by the end of this year, a nationwide ban on direct sales, a form of marketing for which the mainland was not ready, the Beijing Economic News said yesterday. A spokesman for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), responsible for the distribution industry, could not confirm the news. 'Watch the official media for an announcement in the near future,' he said. 'Your news is very quick.' The paper said the evils of direct sales had become increasingly apparent in the past four years. During the last year alone, the SAIC had closed 570 direct sales firms that had no licence, investigated 2,500 cases of illegal direct sales and seized goods involved in the sales worth 70 million yuan (about HK$65 million). The business had attracted people who were legally banned from being involved - such as government and Communist Party officials, soldiers and teachers - and encouraged smuggling and sales of fake and sub-quality goods. This led to the conclusion that it was a disaster for the nation and the people, and something not suitable for China, it said. This evaluation is perhaps not what Amway and other foreign direct sales companies expected when they entered China, it said. But it was imperative for the government to take measures when such a distribution method had become a secret danger to social stability. The laws and regulations were incomplete and multinational marketing firms should have taken this into account before entering it. Legal direct sales companies, such as Amway and Avon, would be allowed to sell their products through retails shops, the report said. Newspapers have been publishing stories daily on the evils of direct sales. Yesterday, China Youth Daily had a spread with photographs of what it called the 'Direct Sales Nightmare', showing people weeping because they had lost their savings. It described how 50,000 people had gone to Wuhan to get rich, by joining a direct sales operation, leading to crimes and social disturbances.