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Consumer news, Trading Standards prosecutions

On-line trader sentenced for selling dangerous skin lighteners

Posted on: 22 February 2018

An online trader who made thousands from selling banned cosmetics and cures which she falsely claimed could cure serious illnesses, has been given a nine-month suspended prison sentence.

Merarie Day, 48, of Milizac Close, Yealmpton, was sentenced on Tuesday (21 February) at Plymouth Crown Court for selling banned and dangerous cosmetics including skin lighteners.

She was also found guilty of making false claims about the health benefits of the food supplements she had sold.

The court heard that Day used her own website and an eBay account to advertise her merchandise, which she imported from the Philippines without carrying out any checks or keeping any records.

She first came to the attention of Trading Standards in 2014. Despite receiving repeated advice over the next two years, Day continued to import the goods, including cosmetics containing hydroquinone, and sell them.

Hydroquinone is banned in cosmetics in the EU as it can damage the liver and nervous system and increase the likelihood of skin cancer from UV radiation – one product had hydroquinone levels of 10.8%.

Following a test purchase by Trading Standards in 2016 of a skin lightener containing hydroquinone, and herbal tea which claimed to cure illnesses including kidney stones, beri-beri, asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis and high and low blood pressure, officers raided Day’s home.

They seized over 600 items including JJJ Golden Spot Removing Cream. The cream contained mercury which can accumulate in the body and cause liver, kidney and brain damage.

Slimming pills, which advertised unauthorised and untrue health and nutritional claims were also removed from sale.

Day had earlier pleaded guilty to 14 offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; the Cosmetic Product Enforcement Regulations 2013 and the Nutrition and Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007.

She also pleaded guilty to two money laundering charges under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. It is estimated that she had sold in excess of £30,000 worth of products, with most of the money being sent back to the Philippines.

Judge Lawrie sentenced Day to nine months in jail, suspended for two years and added that she had chosen to ignore repeated warnings from officers, and instead had sold dangerous products as an easy way of making money.

Day had previously spent 24 hours in jail before being handed a suspended sentence and a 20 day intensive probation order. The judge also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the goods seized.

A timetable was also set for confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Stephen Gardner, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Interventions Manager, said:

“At best these products would have left consumers out of pocket and at worst they were dangerous and could have seriously harmed their health.

“If you think you have some of these products you should stop using them immediately. These products are sold by unscrupulous traders who are more concerned with making money than with the health of their customers.”