Although a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of counterfeiting and money laundering offences, officers have alerted 680 people believed to have bought the counterfeit and potentially dangerous airbags/airbag covers from a seller on eBay.
Those thought to have been affected have been advised to contact their local motor dealership immediately so that their vehicle can receive the necessary checks to ensure it is safe.
Officers seized approximately 100 suspected counterfeit airbags, a large quantity of airbag components, financial documents and computers, while staff from the Ministry of Defence were also present as a precaution due to the presence of explosives in the airbags.
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.
Detailed factory analysis of the airbags at Honda’s UK headquarters 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.
Supt Maria Woodall 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 your 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 well being at significant risk.”