Chelmsford courtChris Radburn/PA

Barrington Armstrong-Thorpe, a 68-year-old from Clacton in Essex, has been jailed for 16 months, for selling tooth-whitening gel containing as much as 100 times the legal level of hydrogen peroxide.

During the trial he was condemned for lying to his online buyers, and putting them potentially at harm. And he's not the first online seller to have taken such a cavalier attitude to shoppers.


The trial

Armstrong-Thorpe bought the gel from the US, repackaged it under the brand of Brighter Smile Marketing, and claimed it complied with EU regulations. However, when it was tested by Trading Standards, it emerged that the products tested contained 69, 89 and 100 times the EU limits of hydrogen peroxide.

It emerged during the trial at Chelmsford Crown Court that he was known by 17 different names, he had been jailed in the US for perjury, and had committed offences over the previous 45 years.

Judge Karen Walden Smith said: "I have never heard someone lie as you did with barely a pause for breath.The business was organised for the purpose of making money and to do so you lied and lied without concern for the public."

Online risks

Essex Councillor Kevin Bentley, who is responsible for Essex Trading Standards, told reporters after the verdict: "Using unfamiliar websites to purchase unfamiliar goods for a cheap price may put you at risk. Teeth whitening gel such as this could cause permanent damage and be extremely expensive to put right."

This is certainly not the first time an internet trader has been through the courts for selling dangerous products. Back in July we reported on the case of Leanne Wetheim, 24, of Gilwern, Wales, who was given an eight month suspended prison sentence, ordered to do 160 hours community service and pay costs of £2,000 by Cardiff Crown Court, for selling fake designer makeup online. Some of the counterfeit cosmetics contained dangerous levels of lead.



Protect yourself

Cases like this show just how easy it is to set up shop and start ripping people off with dangerous products. It's up to us to take sensible precautions to ensure we don't suffer at their hands.

It is essential to do your research before you buy: understand the product and what it should look like. If it is cheaper than its competitors, or is unfamiliar in any way, then it's worth erring on the side of caution.

It's also vital to look into the trader, their reputation, and any feedback. Make sure they have valid contact details, and do an internet search to see if anyone using the product has anything to say about it.



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