ONLINE shoppers have been left horrified after being hit to the tune of hundreds of pounds by diet pill scams, St Helens Council’s trading standards officers have warned.
Watchdogs urged caution this week over offers for “free trials” of diet products, such as ketone tablets, which are said to be popular.
Trading Standards have received a number of complaints from customers who have signed up to these “too good to be true” offers, which have appeared in health magazines, pop up advertising on the internet and through unsolicited emails.
The watchdogs warn that some customers, who thought they were getting the slimming pills for free, have provided their bank details via the traders’ website, expecting to pay around £5 for postage.
They have then had between £50 and £100 taken from their accounts. In some cases several debits have been made in quick succession, totalling several hundred pounds.
The scam businesses hide the terms and conditions of the offer on the website.
The “free trial” actually requires the unsuspecting customer to sign up to a rolling contract, committing them to pay for several months’ subscription for the product.
Watchdogs add that when the customer tries to contact the business, they receive no response, or are pointed to the terms and conditions that they unwittingly agreed to.
Trading Standards officers also have concerns about the legality of some of the products being offered.
A council spokeswoman said: “Fantastic claims are being made about the effectiveness of the slimming pills.
“Ingredient lists on some of these products indicate that the magic pills will have no effect on weight loss, or that they may contain substances that are harmful to health.”
Councillor Seve Gomez Aspron, Cabinet Member for Environment and Neighbourhoods, said: “Residents need to be cautious when buying diet pills, many of these products are worthless as they will not aid weight loss and may make you ill.
“Many of the websites concerned suggest that they have recommendations for leading women’s magazines, so they look like they are the real deal.
“Make sure you trawl through the website to identify the terms and conditions of the “free” offer, read the small print and don’t provide your bank details unless you are completely sure what you are signing up to.
“Be extra cautious if the business does not provide the name and address of the owners and their address in the UK.
“There is no magic formula for losing weight and most doctors would advise you never to take any diet pills and just to eat more healthily and exercise more.
“Basically you never know what is in these pills and what harm they could do.”