ABU DHABI // Fake car parts and defective tyres sold in the capital have led to a number of fatal accidents, with authorities warning offending shops they risk being shut down. Authorised car parts often cost just a few dirhams more than their counterfeit equivalent, but they can mean the difference between life and death on the roads, anti-counterfeit officers said yesterday. Shops selling fake goods have already been hit by a wave of fines this year. Those who are repeat offenders face being shut down by the Department of Planning and Economy (DPE).
The department is also pushing for tougher regulations that would see all offenders punished with jail sentences instead of the maximum Dh5,000 (US$1,360) fine. An exhibit at Abu Dhabi Mall, which runs until Saturday, has on display some of the counterfeit goods authorities have found in the capital. Officers have been focusing on finding where fake goods are sold, but hope to turn their attention to where they are manufactured, Hamad al Neaimi, the department's executive of commercial affairs, said at the exhibit.
"We are cleaning the wound here now," he said. "This is the first step. "We can see who is distributing these things and then go to the source. "It is very important for the image of Abu Dhabi that this stops. We need investors to be able to trust coming here. "If we have counterfeit goods, investors will not want to come here." Mr al Neaimi said the counterfeit trade in Abu Dhabi centred on cosmetic goods, clothes and electronic goods.
Since the DPE's trade protection division was founded in April last year, investigators found 4,650 counterfeit items on sale in Abu Dhabi, with 821 warnings or fines sent to shops after the first round of investigations. The most disturbing development was car shops selling phoney car parts, including oil filters, and defective tyres. "There are some very big dangers here," said Mr al Neaimi. "A lot of deadly accidents have happened because of, for example, fake fuel injection technology and tyres that are not of good quality.
"What happens is that a tyre manufacturer might produce a million tyres, with 950,000 of good quality and 50,000 with defects that are not good. "They then sell those tyres for agriculture, and not to be used on vehicles. "But those tyres are sold on again, and they are very dangerous." Statistics on the issue are from a 2005 analysis of commercial counterfeiting, quoted in the DPE report. It found that nine of Abu Dhabi's road deaths that year were due to exploding tyres, although the report did not specify how many of the tyres were found to be defective.
A genuine Toyota oil filter costs about Dh70, while replicas sell for Dh30 or Dh40. Brakes should cost Dh100, with fakes selling for about Dh30 cheaper. All registered dealers should be able to produce a certificate of confirmation from the manufacturers, said Ali Shibani, an adviser at the DPE exhibition. "A real brake will be able to start stopping after two metres, but the fake ones need seven to eight metres," he said. "When they go for long distances, you will get a smell.
"Basically, if you want to save money, go for the fake one. But if you want to save your life, go for the real ones." According to a study by KPMG, the international consulting firm, counterfeit goods account for up to 12.5 per cent of automotive parts sold in the UAE. An informal study on counterfeiting conducted by leading brands concluded that losses to companies selling the bulk of products in the UAE was $700 million (Dh2.5 billion).
The DPE does not keep a tally of the value of counterfeiting in the UAE, but estimated trade in the Arab world was worth $50 billion. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org