‘Snake Oil Salesman’ Receives Suspended Prison Sentence

Aaron Nickols, whose business involved selling ‘revolutionary’ weight loss devices that were both misleading and unsafe has been given a nine month prison sentence (suspended for two years), ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work and pay £5000 toward prosecution costs.

This followed a successful investigation and prosecution by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.

Warwickshire Trading Standards Officer Eleanor Lake with one of the devices.

At Coventry Crown Court on Thursday 18th May, His Honour Mr Recorder Ievins on sentencing Mr Nickols described him as a ‘snake oil salesman’. He also said of the ‘ultrasonic liposuction’ devices Mr Nickols was renting out that ‘he was satisfied the devices were entirely a sham’.

Aaron William Stuart O’Brian Nickols, ran his business, the ‘UK WeightLoss Network’ from offices in Rugby and Wolston. 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 that 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 advert’s stated that 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!’

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, Team Manager, 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!”

Consumers complained that the devices were dirty, damaged and simply didn’t do what they claimed. Some arrived broken and couldn’t even 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, they were unable to do so because Mr Nickols hid his true identity from consumers. Firstly he pretended to be ‘Sarah Price’ in letters to consumers who asked for their money back. Then Nickols claimed that the business was run by ‘Paul Jones’, preventing consumers from suing him. It is perhaps unsurprising that 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 £1.6Million.

Warwickshire Trading Standards asked an expert to examine the adverts and the claims being made about the device by the ‘UKWeightloss Network’. Nicholas Finer, Clinical Professor, Endocrinologist and Bariatric Physician at University College Hospital London said that 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.

In mitigation, Mr Pole, representing Mr Nickols said that he was a man of previously good character and had now shut the business down.

At Warwick Crown Court on Monday 3rd April 2017 Aaron William Stuart O’Brian Nickols, aged 34 of Sketchley Old Village, Burbage, Hinckley, LE10 3HT pleaded guilty to placing adverts which misled consumers, contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Mr Nickols had pleaded guilty at an early hearing to supplying an unsafe appliance contrary to section 12(1) of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and carrying on his business contrary to the requirements of professional diligence in that he:

(a) Failed to provide information to consumers regarding their statutory cancellation rights

(b) Failed to respond promptly to complaints by unsatisfied customers

(c) Supplied goods namely, Home Use Ultrasound Cavitation Equipment which were not of satisfactory quality and not fit for purpose

(d) Failed to provide his name as the proprietor of the business and an address at which service of any document relating in any way to the business would be effective on invoices and letters or when a request for this information was made

(e) Used an address on his advertisements and on website where documents could not be effectively served.

contrary to r.8 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

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.