Schaeffler scraps 26m tonnes of fake bearings

Fake bearings destroyedBearings manufacturer Schaeffler says it has destroyed 26 tonnes of counterfeit rolling bearings with a market value of around €1m ($1.3m).

A large proportion of the fake Schaeffler bearings were seized in raids on bearing distributors across Europe, including Italy, Germany and the UK, according to the company which noted that the counterfeits were destroyed at a metal recycling company in Germany by crushing them in a scrap press.

The latest operation follows an earlier one in 2007 which resulted in the seizure of 40 tonnes of counterfeit bearings

"Brand and product piracy is not something that is limited to China or South East Europe. It also takes place right on our doorstep," said Ingrid Bichelmeir-Böhn, leader of the Global Brand Protection Team at Schaeffler.

"The German and European markets are no longer flooded with just counterfeit luxury and consumer goods, there has also been an increase in counterfeit safety-critical industrial products such as rolling bearings."

The spindle bearings, spherical roller bearings, ball bearings and needle roller bearings scrapped during this operation were part of a much larger seizure of confiscated counterfeit products, said the company.

The economic losses caused by counterfeit products are difficult to estimate. As well as lost sales and damage to the image of the bearing manufacturer, high costs are also incurred for investigating, confiscating and correctly disposing of counterfeit bearings. And the consequences for companies that install counterfeit components - and their customers - can be severe.

Schaeffler cites a Swiss case in which a customer discovered that a counterfeit cylindrical rolling bearing had been fitted during the repair of one of its machines.

Despite regular maintenance, hot running of the bearings occurred after just six months. This was recognised in good time by the customer, but the issue still resulted in repair costs of around €17,000, which "far exceeded the value of the bearings," according to the firm.

Schaeffler and other bearings manufacturers plagued by counterfeiting have been trying to fight back through information-sharing vehicles such as the website operated by the World Bearing Association (WBA) and concerted legal action against individuals and companies involved in the illicit trade.

Earlier this year, SKF brought a successful prosecution against a Swedish man who was found guilty of dealing in fake versions of its bearing products.

The WBA has also engaged with the authorities in China in a bid to enlist the aid of local authorities there in fighting the counterfeiters. In April, a WBA delegation met with Chinese customs and submitted data on fake bearing seizures compiled up until the end of March 2013.

China Customs acknowledged that the issue of fake labels and blank bearings is a longstanding problem and the existence of an "international network of processing".

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