UK Gov agency warns public to remain vigilant over rogue supplement firms

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

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The UK government has revealed that roughly 36,000 victims have been duped by rogue health supplement firms since 2016, cheating them out of an estimated €12.1m (£10.6m).

In a warning timed to coincide with Scams Awareness Month​, the UK’s Insolvency Service revealed that it had forced the closure of nine health supplement companies, some of which employed aggressive sales tactics and gave out false medical advice.

Consumer minister Andrew Griffiths MP revealed that many victims included the elderly and vulnerable, adding that “The Insolvency Service is playing a vital role in protecting consumers and cracking down on these cowboy firms”.

“During Scams Awareness Month I am encouraging anyone who has fallen foul of these scams to speak up and report it, so we can stamp them out for good,”​ he added.

“Manipulative and wholly unfair”

NutraIngredients has previously reported​ on an investigation by the Insolvency Service back in January 2017, in which Souza Healthcare, a London-based company were instructed by the UK High Court to cease trading.

The action closely followed the closing of another UK-based company, Elbon Wellbeing Ltd, after an investigation found it made false and misleading claims that persuaded elderly and vulnerable customers to purchase health supplements.

The Insolvency Service described the company’s tactics as “manipulative, pressured, misleading and wholly unfair”.

Since then, the Service has revealed more information of other firms involved in unscrupulous sales techniques, which are further detailed on the government’s Health Supplements Scam microsite​.

Along with Souza Healthcare and Elbon Wellbeing, the Service also reveals the business practices of UK-based Healthspring Wellness Product Ltd, who contracted a call centre in Mumbai to sell health supplements on their behalf.

The call centre, which specifically targeted individuals aged 55 and over, who were either housebound or had difficulty in getting to the shops, were accused of using aggressive sales tactics, and distributing false medical advice.

Following an Insolvency Service investigation, Healthspring Wellness was wound up in the public interest in the high court in November 2017.

The activities of the registered director, Vidjan Wasta, were also investigated and as of 18 April 2018, Wasta has been disqualified from running companies for 11 years.

Telephone preference service ignored

Similar examples were of two linked companies, Greenlife Wellness Ltd and Naturecare Wellness Ltd.

Its owners Nitesh Prakash Dhawan and Virendra Singh Thakur were found to have purchased the details of people over the age of 65 with health concerns for arthritis and joint pain.

Offshore call centres were then hired by the two to make unsolicited calls to these people selling them a range of health supplements.

Investigators found that call centre staff used a host of unscrupulous tactics, including claims that they were ringing on behalf of doctors or other qualified health professionals.

Additionally, people were contacted, who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service - a free facility which allows individuals to opt out of unsolicited sales and marketing calls.

“The two companies were put into compulsory liquidation in October 2017 following a petition presented by the Secretary of State,”​ the government said.

“The two bosses have since been banned from acting as directors in the UK for 14 years each – effective from 19 March 2018.”

The Insolvency Service instructed those who believe they have been scammed, or industry members and health professionals who may have spotted a scam company to contact Action Fraud UK​ or get advice from Citizens Advice Consumer Service

Related topics: Regulation & Policy

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