Daimler combats trade in counterfeit spare parts

The global trade in counterfeit spare parts continues to grow: according to estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the total volume of trade in pirated products amounts to 509 billion US dollars annually – and is still rising. The automotive industry is particularly affected, which is why Daimler AG is robust in its fight against counterfeiters.

The company cooperates closely in this respect with the appropriate authorities, for example the Customs authorities. In 2019, Daimler initiated, supported and accompanied more than 520 raids by the authorities. A total of more than 1.6 million fake Daimler products were confiscated. In many cases, they were safety-relevant spare parts such as brake disks, wheels and windshields.

Brake pads after stress test: Counterfeit (left) and original (right).

The product pirates invest a tremendous amount of criminal energy in this trade and, according to a report by the trade association Unifab, achieve higher margins here than with drugs trafficking. In many cases the goods sold by organised counterfeiters are produced in inhumane conditions without any consideration to environmental standards, workplace safety or human rights. In this context, we are not talking about spare parts produced by Mercedes-Benz or other authorised suppliers, but about illegal goods from product pirates. To non-experts, counterfeit parts may look very little different from genuine parts, but in most cases they are of inferior quality and do not meet even minimum legal standards. They therefore represent a significant risk to the wellbeing and safety of customers.

Rims after stress test: Original (left) and counterfeit (right).

Brand protection is customer protection

Renata Jungo Brüngger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs, underlines: “Brand protection is customer protection: Our customers’ safety is our top priority. We pursue a zero-tolerance strategy towards counterfeiters. That’s why we have set up a separate department to put a stop to counterfeiting.”

The car with the fake brake pads (above in the picture) has a significantly longer braking distance.

Intellectual Property Enforcement

The Intellectual Property Enforcement unit has a global presence and works closely with both the Customs authorities and the law enforcement agencies. The brand protection strategy is based on the three pillars of "Detecting, Attacking and Preventing". The brand protection experts inspect suspicious products on online platforms or at trade fairs around the world in order to track down counterfeiters. Typical alarm signals are a conspicuously low price, anomalies in product quality, or goods being sold by dubious online sources. The aim of the worldwide raids with local authorities is the large forgery networks and the dismantling of their production and distribution structures. Other measures include criminal proceedings, injunctions or actions for damages. The brand protection team cooperates closely with Customs and police also when it comes to prevention. In training sessions and with information materials, they raise awareness of the safety risks and help others to distinguish genuine parts from fakes. In so doing, the team is also contributing to sustainability – not only in terms of safety, but also with respect to human rights and environmental protection.

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