Fake and counterfeit alloy wheels have seen an increase in circulation in South Africa, leading to concerns over safety and trademark infringement.
This is according to law firm Spoor and Fisher, which said that “criminals are flooding the market with counterfeit car parts and accessories, including alloy wheels bearing the trademarks of popular well-known car manufacturers”.
Many automotive enthusiasts in South Africa enjoy modifying or upgrading their cars with new parts and accessories, and criminals are aiming for this segment with fake aftermarket components, it said.
Dangers of fake alloys
There are dangers posed by counterfeit alloys, said Spoor and Fisher.
“Authentic aftermarket alloy wheels are produced to certain quality and safety standards,” it said.
“These counterfeit or ‘replica’ alloy wheels are not manufactured to the same quality standards and run the very real risk of failure or damage.”
This is especially the case for off-road and sports cars, where alloys are expected to cope with the stress of more extreme driving conditions.
Another safety concern is load-bearing capacity.
Counterfeit alloy wheels can have almost half the load-capacity of their authentic counterparts, said Spoor and Fisher.
This means there is a danger that the vehicle’s “fake” alloy wheels will not be able to support the weight of the car.
This risk is exacerbated when passengers or objects are loaded into the vehicle.
It is for this reason that South African law enforcement have been taking this crime seriously, it said, leading search and seizure operations at sites suspected of dealing in counterfeited alloys and other components.
Another factor to consider in this segment is trademark infringement, said the law firm.
The term “replica wheels” is sometimes employed in South Africa, but Spoor and Fisher warns this is a misnomer.
“These alloy wheels are not made by or with the authority of the trade mark proprietor,” it said.
“In most instances they are nothing other than fake or counterfeit products.”
The Counterfeit Goods Act 37 of 1997 dictates that the onus is on the seller to ensure their products are legitimate, it added.
How to avoid counterfeits
Spoor and Fisher offered two pieces of advice to avoid purchasing fake alloys.
First, check the price. If it’s too good to be true, it’s because it probably is, said the firm.
Consumers can do this by seeing what the average price of a specific set of alloy wheels is, and use this as a benchmark.
Second, look for the brand’s name. If the brand is not applied to the alloys or visible on any packaging, take note.
“Unscrupulous counterfeit dealers will sometimes try to provide trademark stickers separately in a misguided attempt to evade prosecution.”
Ultimately, however, it is the consumer who will carry the cost of repairing and replacing these alloys and any damages resulting from their use, said Spoor and Fisher.