Counterfeit or non genuine spare parts are always a hot topic for the heating industry. The use of unapproved, non-genuine spares on a gas appliance can have far-reaching quality, safety and legal implications for installers. Merchants also need to take responsibility.

These cheap alternatives can cost customers and installers dearly in the long run. At the very least damage the boiler and invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty, resulting in harming the installer’s reputation along with the increased risks to life and property.

Members of the HHIC are increasingly concerned about public safety as a result of the influx of counterfeit replacement parts for gas appliances hitting the UK market. Manufacturers are legally bound by UK and European legislation to ensure products conform to the latest safety standards and they are tested regularly to ensure compliance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for counterfeit alternatives.

Legal Issues

These parts are often made from inferior materials or components and are unlikely to have been through the same lifecycle testing and approvals process as genuine parts, so may not last as long or be as reliable. Worst case scenario is legal consequences for installers, which could lead to prosecution.

Fitting a non genuine part is surrounded by a whole host of legal obligations. Legally speaking, the sale and fitting of non-genuine parts falls under three categories: parts that haven’t been approved for use with gas appliances and therefore do not carry the CE mark, counterfeit parts, and parts that infringe on intellectual property.

So what happens when an installer fits a non-approved spare? 

Firstly, any part fitted to an appliance that is different to the one specified in the manufacturer’s technical file will immediately invalidate the CE mark certification of the boiler. The responsibility for the safe operation of the boiler then passes to the installer fitting the part as the manufacturer can no longer guarantee the safety of the appliance. Installers are therefore left open to the risk of prosecution should anything go wrong.

While a non-genuine spare may look like it will do the job, there are many unknowns. Does it contain any hazardous materials, is it reliable, will it fit the boiler properly, will it cause other safety and performance issues? The installer won’t be able to answer those questions and will not have a reputable manufacturer to go back to should the part fail or cause damage to the boiler later down the line.

Of course, it’s quite possible that an installer may unknowingly buy a counterfeit part. There is, then, an education job to be done to help installers identify a genuine part from a copy. If installers stick to trusted merchants, they should stay on the right side of the law

A good merchant may not always appear the cheapest but is often the most reliable and helpful in the long term.

Refurbished parts

And it isn’t just fake parts that installers should be wary of. Refurbished parts are also subject to legal implications and installers should be aware of those too. The General Product Safety legislation (Directive 2001/95/EC) orders that they have to be safe, fit for purpose and that whoever purchases the product is not misled into thinking it is a brand new part.

One way that installers can differentiate a refurbished part from a genuine one is that – to meet legislation requirements – all markings from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) must have been removed on a refurbished spare.

Modified parts come under the same legal directives as refurbished parts if they have been altered after refurbishment, but are also regulated under additional directives if they have been modified from new. As with refurbished parts, the OEM markings must be removed, and the modifier takes on responsibility for the product’s safety.

Legally, modified parts are also subject to the Sales of Goods Act 1979, which requires new or second-hand parts to fit their description, be fit for purpose and be of satisfactory quality.

While non-genuine, non-approved boiler parts can seem like an attractive option to installers under pressure to cut back their costs, the lower price point is seriously outweighed by the legal implications. And what about the cost to the homeowner?

Safety first

The main issue homeowners will face with non-genuine spares is of course safety. By introducing an unknown element into a gas appliance, installers can’t be certain that the repair won’t damage the system, or cause further breakdowns or major failures.

The second issue is that the use of non-genuine parts will invalidate any manufacturer warranty registered on the boiler. Installers must always use parts recommended by the manufacturer in the technical file. If a non-approved part is used, the manufacturer can no longer vouch for the safety of the appliance and the warranty is null and void, leaving homeowners footing the bill for costly repairs should anything go wrong.

Manufacturers are demanding action on the use of substandard parts. There are major safety considerations in play, not to mention legal compliance issues that are currently being breached by counterfeit spares. As a merchant we are committed to supplying genuine manufacturers replacement parts.

If a part is too cheap or you find a deal too good to be true, ask yourself why, there is a chance it might not be what it seems.