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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK


Fake car parts danger

"If they haven't caused a death they certainly will"

Trading standards officers have warned that many cars on UK roads could be death-traps because of the number of fake spare parts being fitted.

The Institute of Trading Standards (ITS) is calling for a crackdown on the trade in counterfeit car parts, which it says has grown from a £300m industry in 1994 to a £3bn industry now.

Nicola Carslaw reports: "The message today is beware"
At a three-day conference in Edinburgh, officers will hear about one case where a car was fitted with a brake shoe made of compressed grass, and another where a fake wheel caused a motorist to veer off the road.

John Anderson, from the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, says the parts problem has become a major safety issue.

[ image: Even the repairers may be unaware the parts are fake]
Even the repairers may be unaware the parts are fake
"We've seen steering linkages made of very low quality metal which would shear - if they haven't caused a death they certainly would at some stage," he said.

Tony Northcote, a spokesman for the ITS, agreed.

In the past, he said, counterfeit parts were mainly non-safety items such as wings and body parts. Now, counterfeit items such as brake pads, brake shoes and steering linkages are appearing on the market.

Spies to tackle issue

Tony Northcote of the ITS: "Use a repairer that you know and trust"
The problem for consumers is knowing which parts have been used, said Mr Northcote.

"If you take your car in for a service you take in it at nine, pick it up at five and don't know what parts they've used on it," he said.

He said consumers should use reputable dealers and repairers, and if they are concerned to ask that only original parts are used.

"It may cost more but how much is your life worth?" Mr Northcote said. "If you have a crash, who has the difference in cost there?"

However, car repairers may in turn have been duped over the provenance of the parts. The ITS says some businesses are conned into buying what they believe to be geniune products.

Meanwhile, the ITS plans to tackle the problem in partnership with manufacturers of the genuine goods, and using under-cover intelligence.

Most of the parts are produced in former Eastern bloc countries such as Poland and the former USSR, and the Far East.

The genuine manufacturers will employ spies in the countries of origin of the fake parts, and the ITS will then crack down as soon as the parts arrive in the UK.

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