Rogue traders and the people fighting for your safety

The recent London Motorcycle show saw a large-scale operation take place to combat rogue traders and counterfeit motorcycle clothing. Here’s how it came to happen

Rogue traders and the people fighting for your safety

MOTORCYCLE shows have for many years being a chance for budding motorcyclists to grab a few bargains in the famous ‘last day of the show’ sales. For many, the last Sunday that you visit the NEC or Excel was your final chance to grab a bargain and top your riding kit for the coming year.

But did you ever think about the kit you are putting in your bag? Have you ever arrived home and found that the goods you bought were not what you were totally expecting?

Last month at the London Motorcycle Show, a large-scale operation took place that was focused on clamping down on the sale of motorcycle clothing and kit that falls short of the current legislation. That operation removed from sale a significant number of items that were potentially unsafe, in some cases untested, unverified, or uncertified. The operation could have saved countless people from unnecessary injury, time away from family and friends, or in some cases much worse.

It's surprising to learn that this wasn’t some kind of multi-operational move by trading standard. Most of the work that went into ensure sellers are adhering to the correct and legal legislation was pretty much the work of just a couple of people.

To get the inside line on the story, Visordown spoke openly with Paul Varnsverry, Technical Director at PVA-PPE Group, and one of the foremost authorities on motorcycle personal protective equipment, and a bit of a champion for motorcycle safety. He was also the person at the heart of the operation at the London Motorcycle Show.

Visordown

Thank you, for taking the time to speak to Visordown, and good work on the London Motorcycle Show. It's nice to see people taking charge, and showing that products unfit for sale have no place in the market.

Paul

That was the culmination of over three and a half years of effort trying to get the authorities to do something, and I still dread that at any moment now, I'm going to wake up and the whole thing was just a very pleasant dream, but a dream nonetheless.

Visordown

So that was a large-scale operation that we saw at the show, is that the first time that you've seen anything on that scale at a bike show?

Paul

Well, the last time it happened to the best of my knowledge was in 2007, when Solihull Trading Standards went to what was then called the International Motorcycle Show, before it became Motorcycle Live and they cleared a stand of all its stock, initially on the basis of intellectual property theft but then when they looked into it further, and asked me to do some analysis of the garments, that's when we found the first fake back protectors! And they are still appearing in the same cut-price garments to this very day, the very same products  same back protector-shaped thin foam pads, same price points, from the same sort of supply sources.

Visordown

Okay. And what is this one of those back protectors that feels like a foam mouse mat?

Paul

They’re the ones. 

Visordown

Okay, I've seen the kind of offending articles you’re talking about. So this really is a long running crusade for you then isn't it?

Paul

Crusade? I don't know if I call it that. I come from the background of seeing riders coming back into the motorcycle clothing manufacturer I used to run back in the 80s. We used to repair other brands’ suits, and we learned from that. But riders would walk in there in some crashed leathers that we had made, and they just needed it patching up or a panel replacing or some stitching, fixing. And it wasn’t just our suits, there were a lot of good products about: BKS, Crowtree, Hideout, MW, Scott, and so on.

And those riders were absolutely fine – a bit bruised, but otherwise, no skin loss. And then there were the other riders who walked in - or hobbled in rather. They were sore because they'd lost skin, suits had failed, the seams had opened up and so on. Right there, you learn that it didn't need to happen. And that's when I got thinking about some form of recognisable mark of fitness for purpose that would help riders to differentiate between competing products in the marketplace and make informed purchasing choices. 

I then got in touch with the ACUand worked on an ACU standard with Dr Garth Willson, a trackside doctor, and other manufacturers, which wasn’t published for legal reasons, then the original PPE Directive came in and that created the standards committee that I joined. It's not a crusade, it's just the work you do. And it just so happens that the work I do is focused on making sure riders stay safe by knowing what they're getting. 

273550898_749652146008849_5371874805999588023_n.jpg

This type of disclaimer label was first seen in the late 1990s and stated that the previous PPE Directive did not apply to the clothing. Under the current PPE Regulation, motorcycle clothing is legally categorised as PPE and so the label has no legitimate purpose and is misrepresenting the garment.

Visordown

So what sort of garments did you find at the show that were falling foul of the most recent regulations?

Paul

There were some counterfeit Knox, shoulder protectors, clearly based on a Knox design and Knox intellectual property, but not a Knox product, you could tell that by looking at the shoddy finish. They didn't have a Knox logo on it, admittedly, but they were very much a product that Geoff [Knox Armour] and his team developed. That was seized, and I suspect Knox will be contacted at some point to give the benefit of their opinion. 

A lot of what was dealt with was leather and textile garments, which have not been through the legal process - and it’s been a legal requirement, as you know, because you’ve followed the story, since 21st of April 2018. Any motorcycle clothing, gloves, footwear or impact protection components placed on the market on or after that date must be independently tested and certified.

Visordown  

So we all saw the images of the stands at the show with sheets around them, closed off to the public, was that because they were basically trying to flog anything and everything that wasn't compliant?

Paul

There were stands retailing a few gloves which were compliant, but everything else had neither been tested nor certified. If the stock was placed on the market prior to 21st April 2018, then it can be sold in perpetuity, but vendors need to have records they can show to Trading Standards to verify this. Other products we saw had ”CE” labels but when checked it was confirmed the labels were misleading . There was another too, where I would say easily in excess of 95% of the stock was non-conforming. And in many instances, the retailer  said it was fairly recently purchased, so it should be okay. Well, if it's fairly recently purchased, and it hasn't been tested, certified, it's not in conformity to the legislation. It's very definitely not okay.

Visordown

That’s quite scary that it’s still happening, and it must really piss off the legitimate, brands, the RSTs, Dainese, and Alpinestars of this world.

Paul

Can I come back to that just one observation. You've mentioned RST. It’s not a company I have any association with. They made sure that on the 21st of April 2018, all of their garments, gloves and footwear, met the requirements of the legislation, right from the start. That's one end of the brand scale, a pretty sizable company, doing what they need to do. And then at the other end, of the spectrum, you have companies like Hood Jeans and Roadskin 

Hood is a small husband and wife company, a micro business if you will. But they tmade sure that they were ready to go on the 21st of April 2018. We also spoke to Roadskin, Moto Girl and Goldtop at the show. And they were very welcoming of trading standards being there, because yes, all these companies have invested time, effort and money into being legal. 

Visordown

It doesn’t seem very fair that these companies are all putting in the effort when others assume they can just ignore it, does it?

Paul

I don’t think you will find a clothing brand that has gone through the process, or a market surveillance and enforcement professional that will disagree with that sentiment. Riders see, for example, a pair of riding jeans at £80 and a similar product at perhaps £130 and they think the £50 price difference constitutes a bargain. It might, it might not, but unless the safety performance of the cheaper product has been verified independently, there is no certainty.

273063230_232739319071485_5584747318049694737_n.jpg

This swing label looks authentic, and uses the official motorcycle clothing pictogram of a person on a motorcycle, but the rest of the content does not correspond with any official information layout found in the European Standards. There are several other key errors which those familiar with the legislation and standards on a day-to-day basis will recognise immediately, along with the unauthorised use of the SATRA logo. Despite the claims on the label, it was confirmed that the product was not in fact certified.

Visordown

So what about the show’s organiser, surely they have some moral obligation to ensure kit is within the legislation? 

Paul

That's a good point. Certainly, if you go on to - as I'm sure you have - the comments underneath the social media posts from the event, there is an overwhelming wave of public opinion that, yes,  show organisers should be doing more. They may have an easier time of doing so, because companies which are planning to go to the whole raft of shows that will be taking place throughout this yearmight be thinking twice about whether they want to risk turning up and being shut down on day one, or having their stock confiscated. 

I’ve not physically seen an example, but the organisers do ask exhibitors to sign a declaration that they will conform to all applicable laws when exhibiting at the show. So, you could say they’re passing responsibility on to the traders to make sure that they're compliant. That might be passing the buck, some would say, but maybe legally it is all the oirganisers are required to do.

Visordown

It's quite a far-reaching request, and very loosely worded, it could be a bit more specific in that if you are selling kit that is non-compliant, you will not be taking part in the show no refund will be given? 

Paul

That would be a more assertive way of putting it! We'd have to give the London show organisers their due, as some days before the show they  put out a flyer to all exhibitors and there was a section in there that covered PPE and the fact that Trading Standards would be admitted if needed for this enforcement activity. Some of the traders we spoke to on the Friday of the London show claimed that they hadn't read it, or even seen it. It was circulated to everybody though because an exhibitor forwarded a copy to me. So it was there for anyone to read, if they bothered to read it. 

I have subsequently spoken with some of the traders from the London show, and they have been remarkably positive about their experience. Admittedly, they still have concerns about what happened, but they are taking steps to engage with their local trading standards departments to seek guidance on what steps they should be taking to legitimately clear old stock and not be in breach of the legislation.

Visordown

So how did the trading standards visit come about?

Paul

I contacted the organisers sometime before the event and then sent Newham Trading Standards an email outlining who was attending the show, which companies I believed were compliant, which I believed were not, and which I did not have any information on. I gave them that list and they called me on the Monday before the show to have a discussion about it in more detail. 

Visordown

Moving forwards, do you think this’ll become a regular occurrence at motorcycle shows?

Paul

Since the London show I’ve been speaking with consumers and with traders who wanted advice, talking to the media, and also in contact with trading standards who are planning to attend shows in the coming months. I think what will happen will be as each show comes and goes, and intelligence is gathered on whether there is a noticeable and significant decrease in non-conforming products, trading standards might sit back and take a deep breath, or they might carry on with the pressure. There is a feeling of momentum at the moment!

Yamaha MT-10 2022 Review - New Master of Torque!

Yamaha MT-10 2022 Review - New Master of Torque!