Mislabelled tyres sold in the UK

What will happen to European tyre rules such as labelling in the post-Brexit environment?

The UK didn’t participate in the MSTyre15 project, yet we’ve gained a better understanding of tyre labelling non-compliance here thanks to freedom of information (FOI) requests made by Unite, the trade union representing many employed within the automotive sector in Britain and Ireland. In separate FOI responses, it was confirmed to Unite that no legislation exists to enforce Regulation (EC) No. 1222/2009 and that mislabelled tyres have been sold in the UK.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) told Unite that it “inspected four separate sites and found varying degrees of sites not displaying the correct labelling.” The union claims that these mislabelled tyres came “mainly from Asia.”

This admission from the DVSA follows a FOI response from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Unite says this response shows that a lack of relevant secondary legislation is to blame for the failure to enforce (EC) 1222/2009.

“Between February 2013 to April 2017, there was no UK Statutory Instrument in place and therefore no statutory powers to inspect retail premises or take actions regarding non-compliance,” shared BEIS. Responsibility for compliance has rested with the Department for Transport since April 2017, however Unite notes that “there remains no evidence that the relevant legislation has been passed or that inspections are being undertaken.”

The DVSA informed Unite that its MSU (Market Surveillance Unit) intends to carry out “a programme of activities in 2018/19,” working with trade bodies and distributors to “raise the awareness of the regulations and monitor compliance.” The agency adds that this programme includes “looking at ways of increasing compliance and helping consumers make informed choices.”

Unite is also tackling the issue and recently launched its ’Steer Well Clear’ campaign, which aims to pressure the government to “take action to ensure that mislabelled inferior Asian tyres are no longer being dumped on the UK market.” A further stated aim of the Steer Well Clear campaign is to educate drivers about the “potential dangers of mislabelling and using inferior tyres.”

A startling admission & staggering incompetence

In a statement issued by Unite last month, Michelin employee Robert Taylor observed that “workers fear losing their jobs, yet the government couldn’t even be bothered to introduce inspections to ensure that imported tyres comply with EU regulations.” Taylor, who is Unite’s convenor at the Michelin tyre factory in Stoke-on-Trent, considers that “this government’s incompetence is staggering.”

He’s unlikely to hear any argument on that score from Tony Devlin. The Unite national officer for the rubber industry stresses that the government’s “failure to introduce simple legislation” is “potentially placing thousands of lives at risk.

“The failure by the government to ensure that the EU regulations are being complied with is placing drivers in danger, has serious environmental consequences and is endangering the jobs of British workers, employed by companies that are playing by the rules,” said Devlin. “Customers buying tyres will be alarmed that the official looking labels on some of the products could be virtually meaningless…The government needs to immediately act to introduce proper inspections and enforcement of the existing regulations and then adopt workable measures to ensure that inferior Asian tyres are no longer allowed to flood into the UK.”

Devlin calls the FOI response from the DVSA, which it reported last week, a “startling admission by the government,” adding that the agency has “barely stuck its toe in the water and has already unearthed widespread non-compliance.

“The government needs to come clean and reveal how serious the tyre mislabelling problems are and who is responsible,” Devlin continued. “Is it the manufacturer, the supplier or the retailer?

“Awareness raising activities are all very well but if a company is deliberately ignoring the regulations and mislabelling tyres then there needs to be proper enforcement and prosecutions, as drivers’ lives are being placed in danger.”

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