Most collision repair facilities utilize original, aftermarket, recycled and reconditioned parts, but with concerns about parts sourcing increasing in proportion to the influx of repair jobs needed, many industry professionals are concerned about the potential hazards of receiving counterfeit parts in lieu of what is requested. Counterfeit parts, which are willfully misrepresented by the supplier in terms of material, performance or other characteristics, are dangerous because they may not function as the OEM equivalent was intended, causing hard to the vehicle occupants as well as others on the road.
Tracing the percentage of counterfeit parts is extremely difficult, according to the Automotive Anti-Counterfeiting Council (A2C2) during a recent VeriFacts Guild 21 webinar, which explored the dangers of counterfeit parts and A2C2’s efforts to identify and prosecute the suppliers who are selling these parts. “Don’t Gamble with Counterfeit Parts” featured panelists Abe Jardines from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center); Subaru’s John Lancaster, Andy Forsythe from Nissan, and Toyota’s Teena Bohi. Industry veteran George Avery moderated the discussion.
“Every type of part can be counterfeited, from keys to airbags, brakes, airbags, headlights and suspensions,” Lancaster pointed out. “Not only do these counterfeit parts violate the OEM intellectual property, they can be incredibly dangerous for the repair professional and the consumer. We have reached out to law enforcement offices, ports and branches all throughout the U.S. and have found great success thus far, but counterfeit auto parts are a problem that requires more help…your help.”
A2C2, an organization that consists of multiple OEMs striving to eliminate the sale of counterfeit automotive parts that could cause injury to consumers, collaborates with the IPR Center, which is the entity coordinating and leading the U.S. Government’s response to the threat of hazardous and counterfeit parts.
According to Jardines, “We are working to promote national security by protecting the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy, our war fighters, and to stop predatory and illegal trade practices that threaten the U.S. and global economies. This whole of government approach brings to bear all the regulatory, civil and criminal authorities of the partner agencies to fight counterfeiting and piracy. This approach lays the foundation to partner with Industry, other Law Enforcement Agencies and provide education amongst them and the public of the dangers and effects of IP theft.”
“The bottom line is: Can you trust who you get your supplies from?” Jardines asked. “Can you trust that the part that is going in the car will be safe if your own loved ones were to enter [the vehicle]?”
The recently increased frequency of parts purchasing online has also impacted the number of counterfeit parts that reach shops, and A2C2 has prosecuted several cases where the counterfeit parts in question were purchased online. Bohi warned, “There is a lot you can hide behind when you sell online.”
Forsythe provided examples of red flags that may call the part’s authenticity into question: labels that do not match or have conflicting information, labels placed over other labels, unrealistic production dates, misspellings, and poor packaging, such as nested boxes, empty boxes and shrink wrap. “Genuine OEM parts are properly tested, reliable and offer great quality. Meanwhile, counterfeit or illicit parts are untested, have an increased potential for failures, and can negatively impact safety, reputation and liability,” Forsythe stated.
An example of the dangers of counterfeit parts was demonstrated with a video about Todd Tracy’s case involving Sarah Loughran, who died after a counterfeit airbag failed to deploy in her Kia.
The A2C2 is pursuing several key initiatives in their efforts to address issues related to counterfeit automotive parts. This includes increasing accountability and responsibility of e-commerce platforms in preventing sales of counterfeit goods, and increasing seller, supplier and product vetting to combat the presence of bad actors online. Marketplaces should improve that vetting by implementing stricter requirements, which validate seller credentials and product authenticity, plus marketplaces should promote consumer awareness and offer a simple way for consumers to report problems with counterfeit parts.
According to Bohi, A2C2 also hopes to implement standardized parameters and more stringent penalties on sellers of counterfeit parts and to strengthen penalties for repeat offenders of health and safety products, including counterfeit automotive parts.
Attendees were encouraged to flag potential counterfeit parts and report counterfeit parts to the IRC at www.iprcenter.gov/contact-us.
For more information on A2C2, visit a2c2.com. To sign up for VeriFact’s monthly Guild 21 webinars, visit https://www.verifactsauto.com/guild-21/.