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Ebay seller convicted for peddling hazardous skin lightening products

29 April 2024

An eBay seller has been brought to justice today for selling dangerous skin lighteners via the ecommerce platform, following an investigation led by Southwark Council’s Trading Standards team.

Local resident, Mr Musiliu Olatunji Badejo (56) of Camberwell, London SE5, pleaded guilty to selling the illegal cosmetics and received a six week prison sentence suspended for 15 months, and must also pay fines and costs totalling £4,750.

Ingredients contained in illegal skin-lightening products are harmful to health and have been found to increase the chances of skin cancer and to cause liver and kidney damage.

The Inner London Crown Court heard that between March 2020 and January 2023 he had used multiple eBay accounts to sell over 20,000 cosmetic products to UK customers. The combined sales value was some £340,000. Badejo said he imported most of the products from Ghana, Nigeria and Thailand to his home address.

Southwark Trading Standards had detected two of his accounts and made seven test purchases. Analysis showed that five of the items bought contained either  hydroquinone or corticosteroids. One product called Pure White Dark Spot Corrector Serum contained both but did not list them as ingredients. These dangerous substances are prohibited in cosmetic products.

The serum contained 10% hydroquinone. This is five times the limit that was allowed in cosmetics before a complete European ban in 2001 and an American ban in 2020.

In October 2022 Trading Standards executed an entry warrant at Badejo’s Camberwell flat. They found and seized 1,700 cosmetic products. Badejo was out of the country at the time and two eBay accounts were suspended by eBay.

Sampling and analysis confirmed many of the seized products contained banned hydroquinone and corticosteroids, but these were not included on the ingredients labelling. All the seized items failed to comply with safety and traceability labelling requirements.

Trading Standards served a notice on Badejo requiring him to stop selling any more illegal cosmetics. However, when more eBay checks were made they found Badejo was using two other accounts. These were closed by eBay.

Anyone importing cosmetics into the UK to sell must carry out a safety assessment and keep detailed records about the products. During an interview under caution Badejo admitted he had not carried out any of the checks required. He said he was not aware of the requirements.

In sentencing His Honour Judge Kelleher said these were serious offences relating to products that posed a significant risk to consumers, but he took into account Badejo’s early guilty plea and previous good character, his family commitments and the fact he had since gained professional employment.

Councillor Natasha Ennin, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Southwark Council, said: “The sale of illegal and dangerous skin lighteners is abhorrent. Southwark Council is committed to keep people safe and our trading standards team is one of the most proactive in the country in tackling this toxic trade.

“We will not hesitate to take action against irresponsible traders who put profit over the health of their customers.

“People cannot hideaway selling illegal goods from home online. I hope this court outcome serves as a deterrent to others who think they can import cosmetics without any regard to the vital safety laws that protect people from harm.”

To report the sale of illegal cosmetics use the London Trading Standards report consumer crime tool www.londontradingstandards.org.uk/report-consumer-crime/

Page last updated: 29 April 2024

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