Slippery characters: Two men sentenced for selling fake Bio-Oil
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Two men who sold fake Bio-Oil online to pregnant women have been sentenced.
Norman Gill, 73, of Langland Court Road, Swansea, pleaded guilty to distributing articles infringing trademark and acquiring criminal property. He was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment suspended for two years at Swansea Crown Court on 20 May 2022.
John Burns, 73, of Mariner Way, Swansea, also pleaded guilty to acquiring and possessing criminal property on the day his trial was due to begin. He was given a 12 month community requirement at Swansea Crown Court on 20 May 2022.
Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt, from the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said:
“Gill wanted to make large financial gain for himself by selling fake products to people online and repeatedly tried to change his online store name to avoid being caught and banned from selling. Not content with already making vast profits through dishonest means, he convinced Burns to help him with his slippery business.
“Thankfully the product was not dangerous to those who had purchased it, rather it was useless and of no benefit. Gill’s business was anything but slick and this sentence should make it clear to criminals that you will get caught and punished for selling counterfeit goods to unsuspecting members of the public.”
The crime came to light after a referral was made to PIPCU from Kilburn & Strode, a law firm acting on behalf of Bio-Oil. A customer who had purchased the fake Bio-Oil had returned it to the company as she believed it was counterfeit.
Investigations found that the product was being sold on an online marketplace website under a variety of different seller usernames including “mrbiooil” and “bio-oil-master”, and the seller was listed as Gill.
Investigators on behalf of Bio-Oil made a test purchase in August 2017 and testing at a laboratory found the product was only a 46.58% match to a genuine Bio-Oil formula. The genuine product would be a +99.5% match.
Gill was issued with a cease and desist letter and he provided details of his supplier and returned remaining stock he had.
During a second test purchase in March 2018 from Burns’ online account, the bottles of Bio-Oil were also found to be counterfeit. Burns denied involvement in selling counterfeit goods and said that he had been persuaded to let Gill use his online accounts to sell products.
Officers carried out a warrant at Gill’s home address and during searches of the property, officers found Bio-Oil branded products in a cupboard. The products were seized and a laboratory examination found that the product was a 47.98% match of the genuine product and was therefore deemed to be counterfeit.
An examination of Gill’s bank accounts found between November 2015 and October 2019, 38 payments were made to him from Burns, totalling more than £43,000.
During his police interview, Burns claimed that he had helped Gill sell products online but that it was “all for his [Gill’s] gain”.
Gill initially gave no comment during his police interview but then later he stated that he went into business with Burns by selling online. He also claimed that the Bio-Oil found at his address was for his personal use and would last him for two years.
A spokesperson for Bio-Oil said:
“We would like to thank PIPCU and Swansea Crown Court for ensuring that justice has prevailed.
“We live in a changing world where consumers are attracted by the convenience of online and sometimes lower prices. Online marketplaces are the perfect place for errant, determined counterfeit sellers to exploit seller listing deficiencies.
“Bio-Oil remains determined to find, report and pursue sellers of counterfeit products. We want marketplaces to perform more detailed due diligence of sellers so that errant sellers can be held accountable when found selling counterfeit goods. For good to prevail, it is vital that they assist more in our pursuit of infringers if we hope to stop the scourge that is counterfeit goods.”
Tim Moss, Chief Executive of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), said:
“Counterfeit goods cause real social and environmental harm, and damage legitimate businesses. Such goods are often unsafe or defective, undermine consumer confidence and help sustain criminality.
“This case demonstrates how criminals will deal in counterfeit versions of almost any type of product imaginable if they think it will lead to a fast profit - with complete disregard for those they deceive in the process. Our new counter-infringement strategy sets out how the IPO is supporting operational activity to clamp down on the sale of such illicit goods, working in partnership with the police and industry to help protect communities from this type of crime.”