A Birmingham company has been accused of putting ‘unsafe’ hand sanitiser on the market during the Covid-19 pandemic, a court has heard. Digbeth -based wholesalers Big Living Ltd. and its directors, have gone on trial alleged to have supplied hundreds of containers with less than 30 per cent alcohol – when they were advertised to contain 80 per cent, a court has heard.
It was also alleged the firm led trading standards officers on a ‘wild goose chase’ as they tried to track the product and ensure it was taken off the market. The hand gel’s label claimed it ‘kills 99.9% of germs’ but it’ wouldn’t kill anything, and certainly wouldn’t kill coronavirus’, said prosecutor Mark Jackson opening a case against the defendants at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Monday, March 21.
Big Living, based at Birchall Street, Digbeth, denies two charges of placing an unsafe product on the market, one count of engaging in a misleading commercial practice and one offence of misleading advertising. Jeewan Sagu, aged 40, and Sajika Sagu, 36, both from Moseley, and Desktop IT, also based in Birchall Street, Digbeth, are all named directors of Big Living and have pleaded not guilty to the same offences.
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Desktop IT, which is a business in its own right, was represented by director Robert Hiley at the hearing. Opening the case Mr Jackson, representing Birmingham City Council, said: “What this case is about is the misleading supply of hand sanitiser during the Covid-19 pandemic. Consumers were led to believe it had an alcohol content of 80 per cent when in fact it contained an alcohol content of 28 per cent. ”
He told the court Big Living ‘produced’ the sanitiser by re-branding it under Mr Sagu’s trademark name Chemist Plus.
The prosecutor stated concerns were raised in July 2020 after a consumer purchased it on eBay from a wholesaler, which had obtained it from Big Living. He told the court trading standards were alerted but when they contacted the business Mr Sagu claimed the hand gel was supplied by another wholesaler.
Mr Jackson said that over the course of the next few months Mr Sagu, who ran the day-to-day activities at Big Living, ‘misled’ council officers as to where they had obtained the sanitiser and who they had supplied it to. He said: “They had been supplying this stuff all over the place and keeping it a secret.
“They were asked to give urgent information to the officer to track where the unsafe product has gone. At best officers were being misled. At worse they were being completely and utterly dishonest. The reality is even now officers don’t know who they have sent this stuff to because they haven’t bothered to tell them. “
The prosecutor told the court that tests on the original sample found it to have 27.6 per cent alcohol, and not the 80 per cent advertised, while other samples obtained during the investigation were found to have around 60 per cent.
Mr Jackson added: “There was an absolute lamentable attitude by this company and directors to the attempts made by these officers to track an unsafe product they placed on the market during the pandemic. Officers were being misled left, right and center.”
He told the court Jeewan Sagu gave ‘misleading information and failed to cooperate with the investigation’ while co-defendants Rajika Sagu and ‘Desktop IT’ showed a ‘dereliction of duty’ in their roles as named directors of Big Living. He confirmed Big Living was liquidated in January last year.