On the hunt for plagiarisms II: Fake Braking Pads

Identify fake car parts: What consumers should know

In part two of the blog series, you’ll gain thrilling insights into the world of counterfeit products from Audi Brand Protector Serhyi Jewtymow and his colleague legal advisor Theresa Bartoszek. In our interview, they explain to which aspects consumers should pay attention to and how dangerous fake car parts can be in the event of an emergency.

Sometimes it's the little mistakes on the packaging that can uncover a fake.

How can a consumer recognize a fake car part?

Serhyi: To recognize a counterfeit product immediately is usually quite difficult. A lot of the dealer websites seem professional and reliable at first glance so that the potential buyer draws confidence. That’s why you have to take a close look and be mindful of any abnormalities. The price is a perfect example for that. If the offer seems unbelievably cheap, you have to exercise caution. If you have the spare part in front of you, check out the package and the operating manual. Sometimes that’s where the first discrepancies start to arise.

What are examples of such discrepancies?

Serhyi: Print errors are a common thing. For example, in the name – you’ll often read “Volkswagen Groupe” instead of “Volkswagen Group” or the German language version can be full of spelling mistakes. A lot of obvious aspects that make my life easier, however they occur less and less.

How dangerous can fake car parts be for my car?

Serhyi: Extremely dangerous. A well-illustrated example are fake braking pads. Pertinent tests prove that those can ignite during emergency braking. In the worst case, a car would start to burn. Our original Audi components are produced according to a specification sheet, fulfil the highest security standards and we provide a guarantee. Anyone that buys components outside of specialist retailers bears the risk of having been tricked by a counterfeit product and has to expect the corresponding consequences. Often, it’s only a few euros that you save with a fake spare part. But with an accident you will possibly pay that a thousand times higher.

Audi brand protector Serhyi shows to which details consumers should pay attention to when buying spare parts.

Are the plagiarisms really significantly worse than the original part?

Serhyi: Usually they are. They’ve often been produced under poor conditions. Sometimes, there are whole production steps missing or the forgers are using a different material quality. Thus, the quality varies heavily – there is a category for everything, from abysmal to recognizing a fake only when taking a second look.

But aren’t the forgers getting better in their doings?

Serhyi: The production quality has extremely increased. I’m noticing that counterfeiters are investing money in those products and buy better machines. Aside from that, the cycles become shorter: When Audi launches a new car on the market, it sometimes takes under six months until the fake car parts are in circulation.

Theresa Bartoszek is an in-house counsellor in the Audi brand protection team and is well versed in applicable regulations and laws.

Am I liable to prosecution when I buy a counterfeit product as a private buyer?

Theresa: No, not in general. But there is the risk of a fake part being identified and destroyed during the customs procedure. Advertising or re-selling a counterfeit product in the commercial trade can be considered a criminal offence. The distribution of trademark infringement products is often considered to be a harmless crime by the public. But there is the threat of custodial sentences ranging up to 5 years.

With whom can I talk when I don’t feel secure when purchasing a spare part?

Theresa: You can always talk to the Audi Customer Service. These are the ones that forward the issue directly to us. We often receive hints from private or commercial buyers that have paid attention and found alleged counterfeit products on the internet. We assess the pages, verify the plagiarism and initiate subsequent measures.

Which car parts are forged the most?

Very popular with counterfeiters: lifestyle products, such as key rings.

Serhyi: There are counterfeit products in all areas that can be turned into cash. We have more than 200,000 different spare parts in an Audi. A lot of them are forged. On the one hand, these are service-relevant components like oil filters and air filters and on the other hand security-relevant components such as braking pads, carrier joints or exhaust systems. These wear out over time and have to be replaced at some point.

Crash-relevant parts such as the bumpers, radiator grille or body parts are counterfeited as well. Furthermore, accessories and lifestyle products – for example key rings – make up a significant amount of the counterfeit products.

In which countries are the counterfeit products produced?

Serhyi: The main production sites are all located in Asia. According to our findings, around 90 percent of all components are produced in China and disturbed worldwide from there. What applies in that case is the motto: We deliver to anyone that needs something. The first developments moving from low-cost production towards high-tech production are detectable in China. In the future, it could be adjacent states of China that produce easily and cheaply.

Asia is considered the main production site for counterfeits.

Where does the forger’s expert knowledge of recreating car parts come from?

Serhyi: The forger businesses observe the market in the same way that we do. They procure an original part and check how they can modify it in order to cheaply re-built it. The spare part trade is a billion-dollar business. The main drive of the forgers is to seize a piece of this pie and earn a lot of money in a short period of time.

Has the amount of counterfeit product purchases been increasing in the past years?

Serhyi: Yes. You can observe that a lot of purchases – those of private consumers included – are done on the internet. In that special case the hurdles are visibly lower compared to having to go to a shop to get a spare part. And the cheap prices always work.

Find out about how Serhyi and his team track down forger businesses and how they prepare for a raid in the next part of the “On the hunt for plagiarisms” blog series.

Education on the subject of plagiarism

The anonymity of the Internet enables counterfeiters trading on various distribution channels. They sell plagiarisms directly to private individuals via platforms, which can have fatal consequences. A first indication for this is a comparatively very favorable price.

The archive contains confiscated forgeries of raids.
The awareness campaign of the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) informs consumers about the dangers of counterfeit car parts under the hashtag #buyreal.
Serhyi takes a very close look at plagiarism checks - there can even be discrepancies in operating instructions.

The archive contains confiscated forgeries of raids.

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The awareness campaign of the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) informs consumers about the dangers of counterfeit car parts under the hashtag #buyreal.

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Serhyi takes a very close look at plagiarism checks - there can even be discrepancies in operating instructions.

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