With more fake goods than ever before flooding the market, the aftermarket is not immune from this organised crime as the issue rapidly reaches epidemic levels. Counterfeiters are becoming more cunning at replicating parts and online distribution is making it harder for them to be traced. What’s worse, these counterfeit parts are putting motorists’ lives at risk. Lumag, the leading brake friction material supplier, offers garages some important tips to pass on to their customers to help them spot signs of a fake.
Counteracting the counterfeiters
With little effort, Google throws up stories from every corner of the globe, from the discovery of asbestos brake pads in Australia and 100,000 car parts seized in the UAE, to tens of thousands of fake parts found by police in Bradford. Yet in terms of the bigger picture, this is a mere drop in the ocean. The international trade in fake goods is estimated to be worth more than £15 billion a year. Most of these goods originate in middle income or emerging countries, with China the top producer.
While the selling of imitation goods is nothing new, the distinction between genuine and fake goods is evolving; unfortunately, fraudsters are quick learners. Visual differences are getting harder to spot, and car parts are no exception. For instance, the differences in packaging can often be minute. The latest replicated packaging appears almost identical to genuine parts, showing the efforts counterfeiters are now undertaking. Products are having to be cut up to determine whether they are real or not. Most fraudulent car parts distributors are also using trademarks without obtaining the manufacturer’s permission, such are their attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting garage business or consumer. So, what can be done in the fight against fakes? While public reporting will help stem the problem, there is no substitute for awareness and as the old adage goes, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The high stakes of fakes
While forged car parts may be cheaper, the potential long-term cost could be a lot more, which goes beyond just being financial. If ‘bargains’ on the internet seem too good to be true, then they probably are, providing extremely poor performance and even worse – a dangerous game of Russian roulette.
Commenting on the recent police raid in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Detective Inspector Nicholas Court, of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), said: “This operation is an excellent example of the PIPCU working collaboratively with the motor industry to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods.”
He continued: “Not only could these parts pose a potential safety risk to those who have them fitted to their cars, they also undermine the legitimacy of the motor industry.” *
For a supplier, imitation parts can damage its reputation as a provider of high-quality replacement parts, which could negatively impact on sales as well as jobs. Counterfeit parts typically have a shorter lifespan than original parts, meaning more frequent replacement. If they don’t match a vehicle’s specification, mechanical issues and system failures can also occur. This can undermine a garage’s reputation as well as result in major inconveniences and costs for the motorist. However, all this pales into insignificance when compared to the potential safety risks involved with fake car parts, with drivers’ lives being placed in danger. In the Philippines, up to 90 per cent of road crashes are caused by fake vehicle parts **, which makes for grim reading, with brake pads and discs allegedly being pinpointed as two of the most counterfeited parts. Little wonder that motoring groups in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa are pushing for stricter regulation.
While there are of course more stringent quality standards in place in the UK, this may prove irrelevant in light of the tricks forgers are now using. Some brands have unsurprisingly taken steps against product piracy, by using forgery-proof packaging with hologram seals and only working together with exclusive dealership networks to guarantee a more secure supply. Another policy is to ensure products always follow the same shipping channels and supply chains, and to immediately investigate any deviations, in an attempt to control the threat.
Colin Smit, Managing Director at Lumag said, “LUMAG’s own tried-and-tested formulas and a repeatable manufacturing process underlines its commitment to quality; our vigorous R&D activities enable us to offer safe, modern and high-quality products to our customers. As a result, the recent increase in fake brake products and car parts in general is of grave concern not just to LUMAG but the industry as a whole. Counterfeits are often produced using inferior production techniques and inferior materials, and as a result are extremely dangerous. We urge anyone who has any suspicions regarding counterfeit brake products they may know about or have unknowingly purchased to get in touch with us or Trading Standards immediately.”
Tips for garages
- Purchase products only from trusted partners.
- Where possible, inform your customers of the risks involved with brake friction products they have purchased themselves. It’s always best to refuse to install any self-bought products.
- Always buy branded quality products – in the interest of your customers, your workshop and your business reputation.
- If you have any doubt that a product is genuine, call the manufacturer directly.
Tips for motorists
- Only purchase brake pads and linings from a reputable garage you trust.
- Never compromise on quality; it may mean the difference between life and death. Stick to branded quality products, as it’s the only way of ensuring that, should you be faced with an extreme situation, you have faith in your brakes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your garage for advice. They’re professionals with expertise who can offer best product recommendations which address the safety criteria for drivers.
- Don’t be blinkered by online bargains; cheap doesn’t always mean better.
- Any manufacturer worth its salt will always be pleased to offer assistance. If you have any queries or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them.