Why we need labelling enforcement
With tyre labelling virtually upon us and with TPMS kicking in at the same time (see the forthcoming October magazine's Company News section for more coverage on this), the market needs to know where it stands with regards to enforcement…as soon as possible. We know the Department for Transport has got the whole West coast rail franchise fiasco fallout to deal with, but without proper attention the strength of the imminent labelling legislation could be seriously undermined. Indeed many questions are already being raised. This point is emphasised by a photo currently doing the rounds on the Internet. It is small and of mediocre quality, but what is clear about the image is that it portrays two Chinese-produced tyres of the same size model, speed and load rating on top of each other in a warehouse. A common sight you might think until you realise that the two apparently identical products bear two different European labelling results. The first BB-71 and the second CC-71.
Michelin took the unusual step of publishing the photo online via its @MichelinTyres twitter micro-blogging account, tweeting: “An interesting picture, bearing in mind the introduction of tyre labelling on 1 November.” This was followed up with a brief explanation: “The picture is of actual tyres for sale at a UK tyre dealer. Probably a good reason to stick to premium brands.” As you can imagine there were virtual gasps from motoring journalists and consumers alike. Not because Michelin recommended premium tyres – the top-end manufacturer has demonstrated time and again that it (and other premium tyre manufacturers) generally outperform lower priced tyres. No the shocking implication drawn by these twitterers was that these labels – and crucially the system as well – are unreliable at best and downright fake at worst.
Tyres & Accessories has contacted the manufacturer in question asking for an explanation of exactly what has happened here. So far we haven’t received any kind of reply and in the absence of an enforcement body we are bound to assume there must be an innocent explanation – until anyone is proven guilty that is. So what are the possible explanations?
The most generous explanation we could muster is that although two different labels on apparently identical tyres could give the appearance of playing the system with regard to tyre labelling, it could be that while the two products are broadly the same, they are not in fact identical. T&A is aware of a number of manufacturers (including some major brands) that switched production around following the 1 July deadline. As all products produced after this date legally require a label, these manufacturers apparently tweaked tyre compounds and components in order to give their products the best shot at the new label. If this is the case the company in question would actually be exceeding its obligations by labelling the supposedly older and inferior product. And in this scenario it would mean that tyres produced before that “tweak” date could generate a different labelling result than those manufactured later. In this instance the two tyres would also have a different article number/EAN code. The problem is that the photo T&A (and half the twittersphere) has seen is not of a sufficient enough resolution to magnify the label and read these numbers. And therefore we do not know for certain either way.
However, in the absence of any official explanation from the manufacturer themselves the rumour mill is turning and questions continue to be raised about the quasi-self-certificatory nature of the tyre labelling laws. In the short term an answer from the Chinese factory would help, but in the long-term only the swift naming and activation of an enforcement body can work towards permanently allaying fears about the rigour of the process.