The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit [PIPCU] has this morning (18 February) arrested a man in Dorset as part of an ongoing investigation into the online sale of counterfeit airbags to the public.
As a result of this enquiry officers have alerted 680 people believed to have made purchases from an individual selling counterfeit and potentially dangerous airbags and airbag covers on eBay.
Every individual has been advised to make contact with their local dealership immediately so that their vehicle receives the necessary checks to ensure it is safe.
The man, aged 34, was arrested in Blandford Forum at approximately 8.30am on suspicion of counterfeiting and money laundering offences. He currently remains in police custody at a Dorset police station following the arrest, which was made by PIPCU officers, supported by Dorset Police.
Officers are also carrying out a search at an address in Poole and so far officers have seized approximately 100 suspected counterfeit airbags, a large quantity of airbag components, with financial documents and computers.
Staff from the Ministry of Defence are also at the address as a precaution due to the presence of explosives in the airbags.
In January 2016 an investigation was launched by PIPCU following a referral from the Intellectual Property Office and Honda Motor Europe who identified that counterfeit airbags were being sold on eBay.
Detailed factory analysis of the airbags was immediately commenced at Honda’s UK headquarters in liaison with PIPCU. It was confirmed that the airbags were counterfeit and that they would not deploy as a genuine airbag would on collision, presenting a clear danger to the public.
As a result of financial investigations, 680 people were identified by PIPCU from payment records relating to eBay vendors using the names ‘EU_Trading’, ‘OMNADRENIAK1984’ and ‘barbo2007.’ It has been established that purchases have been made by a wide range of small and medium businesses and individuals.
It is understood that 148 of those consumers purchased suspected counterfeit Honda CRV and Accord airbags. Officers are currently establishing if the remaining 532 purchases concern other counterfeit manufacturer car parts.
The counterfeit Honda airbags had been on sale since September 2013 for approximately £170, which is half the price of a genuine airbag.
PIPCU officers will be liaising with eBay so that they can take action to remove the infringing sales sites from their website. Officers are also taking action to suspend any of the vendor’s associated sales sites by working closely with Nominet, the UK’s central registry for all .uk domains. This remains protocol for any site in breach of the Copyright and Trade mark Act.
Superintendent Maria Woodall of the City of London Police said: “The counterfeiting of any device designed to save lives demonstrates the obscene lengths criminals will go to make money and their sheer disregard for those they are exploiting.
“With the safety of the public being our primary focus in this investigation, we are urging anyone who has concerns about a possible counterfeit car part they may have, to contact their nearest authorised car dealer. They will have the expertise to examine the vehicle and determine if it is safe and roadworthy. Furthermore, if you suspect you have purchased a counterfeit product or have come into contact with a counterfeit website please report the matter to Action Fraud.
“Finding a good deal online should not lead to compromising you own safety. We are reminding the public to use reputable suppliers, and if you have any doubt about what you are buying, don’t cut corners, and don’t buy it.
“We are working closely with Honda, the motoring industry and online auction platforms, to disrupt the sale of counterfeit airbags and car parts and ensure that they are permanently eliminated from the market.
“Our message to consumers is clear – think before you buy online and ensure your purchases are made from genuine and official websites. The chances are that if you don’t, you place your finances, personal security and wellbeing at significant risk.”
Managing Director of Honda Motor Europe’s UK subsidiary, Philip Crossman, said: “The safety of customers is of paramount importance, and we aim to eliminate counterfeiting.
“We strongly recommend any modification to the airbag systems of our cars be undertaken by a trained technician in an official dealership. If customers are concerned, they should visit their local dealership.”
A spokesperson for the Intellectual Property Office said: “This arrest proves the importance of working with our partners to ensure that the public is safeguarded. These devices clearly pose a threat to public safety and we reiterate the advice being provided to by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Honda.”
Individuals or businesses who have fallen victim to a fraud facilitated by identity crime should report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
STORY UPDATED 19.2.16 as follows
The man who was arrested by officers from the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit [PIPCU] in connection with an investigation into the online sale of counterfeit airbags has been released on bail.
The 34-year-old man was arrested in Blandford Forum on Thursday, 18 February on suspicion of counterfeiting and money laundering offences and he has since been released on bail until August pending further enquiries.