x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fake car parts are urgent safety issue

The sale of fake car parts is an issue of consumer protection in its broadest sense

Acting on a tip-off, officers of the Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection division of the Department of Economic Development have seized and destroyed Dh3 million worth of counterfeit car parts held in a Dubai warehouse.

The fake items included 27,700 air and oil filters, 4,000 bolts and 3,000 fans belts, along with brake systems, valves and car bonnets. As The National reported this week, the operation was part of a campaign to protect trademarks and intellectual property, which involves following up complaints and random inspections.

Protecting the commercial interests of copyright, patent and trademark holders is important by itself. It reassures companies that the UAE respects and enforces international law, and it enhances the nation's reputation as a good place to do business.

It is therefore of concern that data from Oman show that a third of the counterfeit goods seized in that country were transported via the UAE. Clearly, further bilateral cooperation is required on this front.

Worldwide, the US Federal Trade Commission and the World Customs Organisation say the annual fake car-parts trade is worth $12 billion (Dh44 billion), so a lot of money is at stake. But there is another, more important, reason why neither governments nor consumers should tolerate the import of counterfeit goods - and that is for safety's sake.

Knock-off goods are cheaper than the real thing, not just because they don't involve royalty payments to rights holders, but because they are almost always inferior in terms of the materials and manufacturing processes used. Quality control is non-existent.

So, in the case of car parts, buying a fake is not just an issue of saving money, it is a matter of life and death. An extreme example can be seen in a 2011 study by the National Automotive Council in Nigeria, which showed that fake parts contributed to two-thirds of accidents. In 1997, after seven children died when a bus overturned, investigators discovered the brake linings were made of compressed grass.

In 2010, Egypt's Consumer Protection Agency reported that 30 per cent of car parts on sale in the Middle East were fake.

In the most recent incident, the owners of the counterfeit goods were fined. Given the potential for fatalities, it would not be unreasonable for serious offenders to be driven out of business as well.