FALSE weight loss claims have landed a Warwickshire businessman in court.
Aaron William Stuart O’Brian Nickols ran a business turning over £400,000 per year renting out ‘ultrasonic liposuction’ devices which he claimed would enable users to lose weight without exercise or dieting has been successfully prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.
Nickols – who ran UK WeightLoss Network from offices in Rugby and Wolston – purchased 400 devices from a Chinese manufacturer on eBay at a cost of £170 each before renting them out for £199 per month to consumers across the UK.
In advertisements in national newspapers, Nickols – who used the name Paul Jones to hide his identity -claimed the ultrasonic liposuction device would enable the user to lose weight without dieting, exercise or surgery. Users were instructed to apply a jelly to their fatty areas before rubbing the electrical device across to melt the fat away.
Nickols’ adverts stated users could ‘Get the body you’ve always wanted with no gym and no diets!’ and that the product was a ‘revolutionary treatment’ that ‘shifts stubborn fat fast!’
But in reality the claims made about the product were false and misleading, and there was no scientific evidence to back the claims he was making. The products were also electrically unsafe.
Simon Coupe, of Warwickshire Trading Standards, said: “We began to receive complaints about the UKWeightloss Network after the business refused to refund its customers when they complained that the device didn’t work and in some cases had begun to smoke and give them electrical shocks.
“In one case the device being rented was supplied directly from the manufacturer in China to the consumer and the import document described it as a metal polishing machine.”
Customers complained the devices were dirty, damaged and simply did not do what they claimed. Some arrived broken and could not even be turned on.
But despite their persistent attempts, many failed to obtain a refund from Nickols.
When consumers tried to take action to recover their money, Nickols hid his true identity from consumers. Firstly he pretended to be Sarah Price in letters to customers who asked for their money back. Then Nickols claimed the business was run by Paul Jones, preventing consumers from suing him.
Nickols had previously been made bankrupt with a string of unsatisfied County Court Judgments registered against him totalling approximately £1.6 million.
Warwickshire Trading Standards asked an expert to examine the adverts and the claims being made about the device being sold by UKWeightloss Network.
Nicholas Finer, clinical professor at University College Hospital London said there was no evidence to support the weight loss claims made and no published scientific evidence to support low intensity ultrasound as effective for weight loss.
Trading standards officers also found that the devices had not been safety checked when they had been imported, despite Nickols having a legal obligation to do so, and also did not meet electrical safety standards.
At Warwick Crown Court on Monday, 34 year-old Nickols, of Sketchley Old Village, Burbage, Hinckley, pleaded guilty to placing adverts which misled consumers.
Nickols had pleaded guilty at an early hearing to supplying an unsafe appliance and carrying on his business contrary to the requirements of professional diligence.
Nickols has given an undertaking to Warwickshire County Council he will no longer be involved in the sale or supply of ultrasonic liposuction devices.
The case was adjourned for sentencing in May.