I was hired by a very prestigious and bespoke worldwide car company brand in relation to companies selling counterfeits/fakes of their products; primarily alloy wheels. This was a major concern as the fake wheels were prone to collapse. As a result a number of accidents had been reported to our client by police and insurance companies.
One company they had been tipped off about was within 5 miles of their head office in West Yorkshire.
I spent a day at the client’s very plush offices learning about their products and studying how to identify fakes, noting measurements, shapes and branding, also the hair raising costs involved in purchasing the real thing!
Once up to speed they very kindly let me use one of their vehicles to undertake the enquiry. I had to ask them to change the branded number plate for a standard garage plate, which would prove very important in the process of the enquiry.
I attended the site in question which sold all and everything in relation to vehicles, including exhaust systems, in car entertainment and a large display of alloy wheels which, after a short browse around, I walked into and started to look interested.
After some 10 minutes of browsing, a staff member asked if I needed any help. I asked him about particular wheels and used a suitable pretext. He informed me that he could obtain the brand, but they did not have them on display. The staff member took me to a computer and showed me 3 wheel designs which were our client’s brand.
Continuing the pretext I asked his advice on which would look best on a white Range Rover Sport. He asked to see the vehicle and followed me out to 'my' car and immediately checked the number plate, then became very friendly and suggested a particular design would look best.
Back inside he said it would take about 15 minutes to get the wheels from their other Warehouse, so made a drink whilst completing the order.
I paid £700 for a set of wheels, knowing full well that a legitimate set would cost nearer £3000!
After 10 minutes he said to bring my car round the back and drop the back seats to increase the boot space. These were big wheels! A dark coloured Mercedes Sprinter van came round the back of the site at quite a speed. It reversed up to the back of my vehicle and the male driver jumped out. He started to transfer boxes from the van into my car. I took photographs of this in operation, including the driver, the vehicle and registration. I then climbed out of my vehicle and said I wanted to check the wheels before leaving. The van driver was very jumpy and nervous. Wheels were checked and he took off like he had left the gas on at home!!
I returned to our client’s head office and upon speaking into the intercom to gain entry to the secure rear yard, they said 'Don't tell me you got some?!!' As I parked up I was greeted by head of sales, head of legal, head of quality control and the Chairman of the company. All at first glance confirmed that the wheels I’d purchased were fake!!
I was then required by their legal advisors to give a number of Statements in relation to the above. This would all go towards suing the rogue company and banning them from selling any products with our client’s branding. This was successful. It resulted in a substantial fee from our client and after legal and police involvement; guarantees were secured from the owners of the rogue business.
We have since then conducted a number of smaller enquiries for them in relation to Brand Protection which have again proved very positive for the client and us as a business. They have said I can have one of their vehicles at a reduced price but at £100k plus, I might leave that until next year!!!!