Health supplements

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In this feature l preying on the vulnerable l expert opinion l trader convicted Pill pushers How one rogue company selling health supplements to the affluent vulnerable was caught out by Warwickshire Trading Standards. Simon Cripwell outlines the case H ealth is something only the healthy take for granted. Rogue traders know this, and prey upon the vulnerable. One such rogue company which was misleading people, aged 50 and above, about the health benefits of its products was caught out by Warwickshire Trading Standards and taught a valuable lesson. Sanda Wellbeing, a UK-based company specialising in telesales of high-value health supplements, was found guilty of four offences relatingto supplements sold to an 89-year-old Warwickshire man in September, two years after the complaint was first received by Warwickshire Trading Standards. In September, Leamington Spa Magistrates Court heard that Sanda Wellbeing used an Indian call centre run by a closely connected Indiaregistered company, Sanda Wellbeing PVT to generate sales. It targeted affluent homeowners with a credit or debit card, who were aged 50 plus, and who had reported suffering from mobility issues, orwho may be interested in buying healthsupplements. Telesales staff followed scripts, instructing them to make a number of claims as to the benefits of the products. Customers were offered the services of nutritional experts to provide recommendations, not only about supplements, but also about diet and lifestyle. Each order was sent out with an accompanying letter, thanking the customer for their trust, and reassuring them about the companys focus on qualityproducts and extraordinary customer service. Warwickshire Trading Standards began its investigation after a report that an 89-year-old Rugby man had paid 9,949 to the company over an 18-month period. The customer had been supplied with a wide range of products that, between them, promised numerous benefits, including to: boost the immune system; fight the signs of ageing; and maintain joint flexibility, prostate health, weight, and a healthy heart and mind. The investigation revealed that the considerable quantities of the products supplied if taken in accordance with the recommended dosage instructions would have lasted several years. In some cases, the products would have exceeded their best before date long before they could all have been taken for example, the customer had more than fiveand-a-half years supply of a product that had less than two years until it exceeded its best before date. Warwickshire Trading Standards arranged for the products to be analysed, after which a dietician provided an expert opinion as to their nutritional value. Some of the supplements simply did not contain the promised levels of nutrients. For example, a Pomy product promised togive all the goodness of pomegranate this being that pomegranatesunique compounds are rich in folic acid, vitamin A, B3, C and E. Analysis revealed negligible quantities of some of these nutrients; for example, it contained less than 0.01 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. A number of the supplements overlapped in their nutrient content, so by taking them in accordance with the recommendations on the packs the consumer would exceed his recommended daily allowance. In most cases, this would not have been detrimental to health, but the dieticians evidence was that there are no scientifically validated reasons for taking vitamins in doses higher than the recommended range. However, in the case of vitamin A, excess intake is reported to have been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of hip fracture. By taking all the products sold to him in accordance with the instructions on the packs, the customers vitamin A intake would have been significantly more than the recommended daily allowance, and could have been detrimental to his health. The court heard that the company had no procedures in place to prevent inappropriate quantities and/or combinations of products being sold to customers, nor were upper limits applied to ensure products did not contain excessive levels of nutrients such as vitamin A compared with the content stated on the label. The company was found guilty of three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, arising from the sale of its products to the elderly customer, and a further offence under the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations relating to a misleading claim about the levels of nutrients present in the product Pomy. During sentencing, District Judge Robertson stated that the court regarded the offences as serious and significant breaches of consumer protection legislation. Sanda Wellbeing took advantage of an elderly mans vulnerability, selling him quantities of supplements through whatpurported to be a high-end service using a sophisticated and targeted approach. The products purported to be of a certain quality, supported by research, but were, in fact, not what was claimed. The company had shown a reckless disregard for the requirements of professional diligence, and had sold the customer inappropriate combinations of supplements, in inappropriate quantities. The district judge went on to say that in deciding how to punish the company he must take account of the high degree of seriousness with which he viewed the matter, but also the financial circumstances of the company. Official records showed that the company had traded at a loss, had no assets, and was now in liquidation. Having emphasised that a fine was warranted, he took into account the fact that prosecution costs and compensation for the customer had been paid by one of the companys directors. For these reasons, a three-year conditional discharge was imposed on each charge. The prosecution offered no evidence against Ajit Ramanlal Patel, of Crawley Down, West Sussex, who was a director of Sanda Wellbeing at the time the offences were committed. Patel was acquitted on all charges. Patel paid prosecution costs and compensation to the customer, together totalling 41,500. He gave undertakings to Warwickshire Trading Standards that he will not, in his current or future businesses, engage in the type of conduct for which Sanda Wellbeing was convicted under the Consumer Protection from Unfair TradingRegulations. Credits Published Simon Cripwell is a trading standards 28 October, 2014 By taking all the products sold to him, the customers vitamin A intake would have been significantly more than the recommended daily allowance and could have been detrimental to his health THE VERDICT Sanda Wellbeing was found guilty of three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, and one offence under the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations. Speaking after the case, Councillor Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Councils portfolio holder for community safety, said: We very often hear of people who feel pressurised by telemarketing calls. Many end up spending thousands of pounds on products they did not want or need. I am delighted that the trading standards service has been able to take action to protect consumers. Warwickshire County Councillor Richard Chattaway, chairman of the councils Overview and Scrutiny Committee, added: Warwickshire Trading Standards is committed to helping to protect and support elderly and vulnerable consumers. To share this page, click on in the toolbar officer at Warwickshire Trading Standards. Images: Olga Miltsova / Gita Kulinitch Studio / Shutterstock