Ohio Enacts Counterfeit Airbag Law
Update - December 31, 2013
Ohio is the third state to enact a counterfeit airbag law that prohibits the manufacture, import, installation or sale of counterfeit airbags. House Bill 177 was sponsored by Republican State Representative Dorothy Pelanda, backed by the Ohio Insurance Institute and the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association and signed into law by Ohio State Governor, John Kasich.
Automobile manufacturers, Homeland Security, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Customs and Border Protection, have been working since 2010 to combat counterfeit and nonfunctional replacement airbag sales into the United States. Often, the counterfeit airbags are visibly comparable in almost every physical attribute except for the automobile manufacturer's unique labeling system.
Testing has shown that these airbags can malfunction in a variety of ways including late deployment, deployment with insufficient force and even non-deployment. Some are filled with rolled-paper towels that clearly would not provide protection to a consumer in a crash. These airbags present a serious safety problem potentially affecting thousands of drivers on the road today.
There has been a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of counterfeit and nonfunctional replacement airbags sold over the internet.
Although every new car is equipped with authentic airbags, the counterfeit airbags come into play after an accident that caused airbag deployment. The majority of repair shops in Ohio are honest, reputable businesses. Unfortunately there are a small number of dishonest shops that choose to defraud unsuspecting customers. It is those shops and persons that support them that this bill targets.
Thousands of counterfeit airbags have been confiscated in federal raids in multiple states. To date, six federal arrests and prosecutions have occurred in Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, and the state of Washington.
Due to increased enforcement efforts from U.S. Customs and Homeland Security, the number of counterfeit airbags seized increased to 65 shipments in 2012 from 13 in 2011. These seizures took place at airports in New York, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
Last October, the National Highway and Safety Administration issued an alert about counterfeit airbags, in which 19 different automakers and numerous models were identified that could be impacted. The efforts of Federal officials have brought much-needed attention to the issue, but, unfortunately, Federal counterfeit laws are limited in their ability to protect consumers.
This legislation states that whoever distributes counterfeit or nonfunctional replacement airbags is guilty of a fifth degree felony on the first offense. On each subsequent offense, or if the violation results in bodily injury, or death, the offender is guilty of a felony of the fourth degree.
Each manufacture, importation, re-installation, sale, or offer of sale in violation of this law would constitute a separate and distinct violation.
It is important to understand that this legislation is about safety and crime prevention, and not about eliminating competition. In fact, due to the high costs of manufacturing and certification, there are no aftermarket replacement airbags. Legitimate airbags, including replacement ones, come only from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the independent Ohio dealers that sell them.
If your vehicle is repaired as a result of an accident, ask the repairman for proof that the airbags that he installed were purchased from the original equipment manufacturer.