More and more UK riders are becoming aware of the benefits of safety certification in riding kit, and they’re looking out for the labels when buying. But some of those labels – and the certificates behind them – are fake.
Certification is required by law in ALL riding kit sold in the UK and Europe, but the sad fact is that not every company is doing it. They’re not meeting their legal obligations and – more importantly – they’re leaving a huge question mark over the protective value of the kit you buy.
Worse than that though, some companies are using fake certificates – either mistakenly or deliberately – to provide the reassurance that what you’re buying is protective.
What you wear and the protection it offers is entirely your choice, but there are some out there who are selling non-conforming kit – usually through e-commerce websites and via social media – that could leave you in serious danger should the worst happen.
If you’re buying riding kit, you’ll most likely expect it to be protective, but would you prefer to trust in independent testing, or in marketing claims? Or worse, in downright lies?
As our CarvenalCo investigation showed, confusion about safety standards on the part of the consumers and even the brands can lead to products not offering the protection you might rightly expect.
This certificate of conformity is a fake. In fact, the small-print at the bottom effectively explains it’s worthless
Since the start of 2022, Trading Standards Departments across the country have been visiting bike shows and retail stores to check the legal status of riding kit on sale. PPE expert Paul Varnsverry has been working with officers on many of these visits, as well as providing them with training resources, so we asked him if he could offer any guidance to consumers to help them ensure claims of certification are authentic.
“The biggest ‘tell’ in a fake certificate is the body that issued it,” he told us. “Companies like SATRA, Alienor, Intertek and Ricotest are legitimate notified bodies that test the protective performance of riding kit, and provide authentic, official certification as proof. But there are companies out there – legitimate sounding ones with convincing websites – that provide so-called ‘certificates’ that are absolutely worthless. Whether the manufacturers or importers that they’re supplying them to are aware of this or not is unclear, but either way, they’re misleading, fraudulent and potentially dangerous to riders.
“The CarvenalCo gloves had ‘certification’ from Euro Assessments and Certification Limited but this is not an official certification body, and Bennetts BikeSocial’s investigation showed that the certificate ‘awarded’ was worthless.
“CNC Conformity ‘N Compliance Services (which operates from an address in Wembley), and Quality Links International, of Slough, have also been involved in supplying documents that may provide the misleading impression that a safety product has been through the correct process when in fact it hasn’t.
“At the 2022 Festival of Motorcycling, the user information for impact protectors fitted into motorcycle clothing referred to CNC Conformity ‘N Compliance Services as the ‘certification body’. I was on site to assist Peterborough and Cambridge Trading Standards, and immediately recognised the claim was false, so action could be taken to remove the goods from sale.
“Air Vests are being sold on eBay using a heavily photoshopped document issued by Shenzhen CTT Testing Co., Ltd. This is another organisation that has no legal status to proclaim a product meets European safety legislation, irrespective of the impression given by statements in its documents. Earlier this year, over the course of two weeks, I managed to convince eBay to remove the listings for around 80 of these dubious air vests, but less than 24 hours later they were starting to reappear under new account names, still using the same false document.
“I accept that standards, testing, legislation, and certification is a highly complex area at both technical and regulatory levels. It’s a dry subject to many, but that is what those who are looking to sell goods to you and take your money under false pretences are counting on.
“The good news is that there are simple checks that can be made, and a little effort up front – a few clicks of a mouse – could prevent consumers being left with a purchase that is unfit for purpose.”
The is a genuine safety label in a genuine product that’s sold with all the necessary paperwork
The PPE legislation that states that ALL motorcycle riding kit be tested for its protective performance requires that three statutory pieces of information are provided with every product (except helmets, which comes under a different regulation):
If any of these three pieces of information are absent, then caution is advisable.
Once these three requirements are in place, the authenticity of claims of certification can be checked in the Declaration of Conformity, which is required – by law – to list the following information:
“The legislation stipulates the format that must be used in the Declaration of Conformity”, Paul told us, “but I’ve seen some very artistic-looking declarations that sacrifice accuracy for style and omit certain key details, including for the organisation issuing the certificate and the certificate number.
“The certificate number and issuing body details are the two pieces of information that can really help consumers. The European Union operates a database of approved certification bodies that can issue the certificates that permit CE marking. There is also a parallel database for UK-based certification bodies whose documents support UKCA marking, though it has recently been announced that the European certification will remain applicable in the UK ‘indefinitely’”
Knowing where to check can ensure you don’t waste money on potentially dangerous riding kit
If you buy a well-known, respected brand’s products from a UK-based bricks-and-mortar store you should, in most cases, be buying kit that’s properly certified. We have found gear with no certification in some high street stores, though this is generally easier to spot as it’s not (usually) faked. Still, it can have some misleading labels, so watch out for a future investigation. Always look for the proper labels, as shown in this guide.
The easiest way to check if a supposed safety certificate is legitimate is to check if it was issued by an authorised notified body. It’ll almost certainly be an EU certificate, but there’s a slim chance you might come across one for UKCA:
“Armed with confirmation that the certification body is legitimate, consumers can, if they wish, go one step further and contact the organisation to check the certificate itself is authentic. Some certification bodies provide an online verification facility whereby entering the certificate number will provide details of the company to which it was issued, the products covered and whether it is valid.
“This course of action is not only open to consumers to use, but importers, distributors and retailers can also ensure they are not going to encounter problems, particularly when dealing with a new supplier whose claims might seem entirely plausible, but turn out to be untrue when checked. This has happened several times, and has left companies out of pocket when they could not legally sell the products in question.”
The Bennetts High Performance Awards help YOU to choose the safest riding kit
Buying the safest riding kit for you comes down to a few key points:
Armour comes in two levels: One and Two, with level two offering the greater impact protection. There are also two sizes: Type A and Type B, with Type B being having the larger minimum size. However, this is fairly unhelpful as I’ve seen Type A armour that’s bigger than Type B if the latter has been designed down to the minimum.
It’s not difficult to check the amour in any kit you’re buying though:
If you’re buying from a well-known brand in a bricks-and-mortar store in the UK then it’s most likely that the certification will be legitimate (though if it doesn’t have any labels, do be cautious). However, to make life even easier, Bennetts has launched the rapidly-growing High Performance Awards, which help YOU to find the highest-performing riding kit.
Before any products are included in the Bennetts High Performance awards database – be that for reaching the highest levels under current certification standards or going beyond them with criteria we’ve specified – we demand to see the official certificates that have been issued to companies for that kit. The database also provides links to all the products’ declarations of conformity, so you can easily see all the legally-required information. If we’re at all uncertain about the legitimacy of the documentation, we seek independent expert advice and have it thoroughly vetted.
Not every product qualifies for an award, and some companies might not want to register – even some well-known brands whose products would qualify for Gold Awards have yet to submit their details, and that is their choice – while others might not yet have heard of it. Feel free to ask your favourite brands why they’re not on there if you feel something’s missing. We’d love to hear what they say, so let us know in our Facebook Group…
If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.