Agents in the US have raised a number of lawsuits against homeworking agencies that charge a start-up fee but offer little support.

Speaking at the European Tour Operators’ Association conference, Travel Weekly US editor Arnie Weissmann said some homeworking firms operated a “pyramid” scheme by asking members to recruit more agents and taking a percentage of their earnings.

They often charge a start-up fee of $499, he explained, but provide little in return. The legal action in the US is helping to combat this type of business, he added.

Meanwhile, Weissmann said home-based agents had become an important part of the US agency market in recent years. In a survey by the magazine released last week, 35% of the 1,543 agents questioned were homeworkers.

The survey revealed that many home-based workers earn less than $5,000 a year, indicating that they are working for extra spending money rather than relying wholly on their income.

It also found that home-based agents tend to sell more domestic product than traditional agencies. At the smallest home agencies, domestic travel outsells international. Home-based agents tended be the happiest in their work, the survey revealed, never finding it “tedious or boring”.