A trader selling fake weight loss devices from offices in Rugby and Wolston pleaded guilty to misleading customers and selling unsafe appliances yesterday (Monday, April 3).
Aaron William Stuart O’Brian Nickols’ business UK WeightLoss Network was turning over £400,000 a year renting out ‘ultrasonic liposuction’ devices with no proof they worked.
The 34-year-old trader used two different names to hide his identity and refused to refund angry customers complaining the device did not work.
Warwickshire Trading Standards team leader Simon Coupe 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.”
Nickols 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 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 the product was a ‘revolutionary treatment’ that ‘shifts stubborn fat fast’.
In reality, the claims were false and misleading with no scientific evidence to back them up and the products were electrically unsafe.
In one case the device was supplied directly from the manufacturer in China to the consumer and the import document described it as a ‘metal polishing machine’.
Consumers complained the devices were dirty, damaged and simply did not do what they claimed – some arrived broken and could not be turned on.
However, despite their persistent attempts, many failed to obtain a refund from Nickols.
When consumers tried to take action to recover their money, he pretended to be ‘Sarah Price’ in letters to consumers who asked for their money back.
Then Nickols claimed the business was run by ‘Paul Jones’, preventing consumers from suing him.
It is perhaps unsurprising Nickols sought to hide his true identity, after previously being made bankrupt with a string of unsatisfied county court judgments registered against him totalling approximately £1.6m.
Endocrinologist and bariatric physician at University College Hospital London Nicholas Finer told Trading Standards there was no evidence to support the weight loss claims and no published evidence to support low intensity ultrasound as effective for losing weight.
Trading Standards officers also found 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.
Nickols, of Sketchley Old Village, Burbage, pleaded guilty to placing adverts which misled consumers at Warwick Crown Court, after admitting to supplying an unsafe appliance at an earlier hearing.
Nickols has given an undertaking to Warwickshire County Council that he will no longer be involved in the sale or supply of ultrasonic liposuction devices.
The case has been adjourned for sentencing week commencing May 15.