Have you been on holiday to the Mediterranean lately? Chances are, at some point you'll have encountered a man (it's usually a man) – or, more likely, an endless succession of them – offering you some goods at very low prices. You know the sort of thing: designer brand sunglasses, watches, DVDs and the like.
Except of course, none of these goods are the real thing. They're all counterfeit.
'Knock Off Nigel'
Remember 'Knock Off Nigel?' A few years ago, the Industry Trust – the body that represents the film industry – launched a series of anti-piracy adverts on British TV.
In them, a character called 'Knock Off Nigel' was humiliated in front of friends and colleagues, because he was known for downloading and offering people pirated copies of films. Nigel was portrayed as a loser, the type of man who, “gave his girlfriend a watch he found in the street”.
A change of tack
The film industry has recently changed tack: they now run ads thanking the public for supporting the industry and helping it thrive. But they still claim the anti-piracy approach they adopted in the 2000s worked. They say it made the purchase or downloading of pirated films less fashionable.
Some still buy fake
Nevertheless, as you may have observed on holiday, a significant number of people still buy fake goods. Perhaps they feel they're getting a bargain. After all, they might say, a lot of the designer goods are made in what are effectively sweatshops in less affluent countries. The companies who sell the genuine article make massive profits, they'd say. The counterfeits may not be quite as good, but cost a lot less money.
One thing's for sure: buying cheap sunglasses or copied DVDs isn't going to damage your livelihood. But not so with glazing industry products.
Hardware isn't chic
Premium brand window and door hardware is never going to be as fashionable as a chic designer label. Having said that, it does get copied. Roto has a department in Germany that deals with patent issues. There have been cases where other companies have sold products that imitate patented features of Roto designs, and legal action has been taken.
We've even seen out-and-out counterfeits of items like tilt and turn components and handles, embossed with a copy of the Roto logo and passed off as being our own. Most of these fakes originate in the Far East.
It goes without saying that quality control on these items is virtually non-existent, and there's no way of knowing what grade of material they're made from. Anyone using them could be taking a massive risk.
Happily, the vast, vast majority of the hardware sold in the UK isn't 'fake' in the sense of it being a direct counterfeit, passed off as being something else. But there are different brands, and, as in all markets, there is a hierarchy.
A premium brand
At Roto, we've always been placed up in the premium sector of the market. There are many reasons for this of course, but our German pedigree and reputation for quality control and delivery performance are of course factors. That we've been responsible for many leading edge designs, going right back to the first ever mass-market tilt and turn system, has also helped.
There are still some UK-based manufacturers who don't use our hardware, and have been happy to use other brands. They have their reasons, usually perceived cost-effectiveness. Are they right? Well, of course, we don't think so. But will changes in the market, especially the introduction of CE marking and the raft of new standards under EN 14351, make a difference?
Just the tip of the iceberg
We think it will. The introductions planned for 2013 are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the near future, two products that – at the moment – both seem more or less identical, and which both pass existing test standards, could perform very differently under the tests required for the new CE and EN certification.
The signs are that many manufacturers are now reviewing their choice of suppliers – not just for hardware, but in other areas too – and are wanting to ensure they avoid the pitfalls of using an inferior grade product.
This is a theme to which we'll be returning over the coming months, as we blog more articles about doors, windows, hardware and industry-related issues.
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