Saturday 17 November 2018

RSA: Risk of buying items that make your car illegal

Our Road Safety Authority experts pinpoints need for action by vendors over rogue items

Buying online
Buying online

In this 24/7 age of online advertising, it's no wonder giants like Facebook and Google have been called on to take more responsibility over the power they yield.

This was especially evident in the recent decision to suspend ads on the recent referendum.

Now might be a good time to discuss vendor integrity on road safety. Products and services which make a vehicle illegal are being offered for sale online to Irish customers.

This isn't the deep dark web we're talking about. These items are for sale on the virtual aisle next to the gardening tools and child's play house.

Freedom to advertise is acceptable on all accounts. However, when the item is the catalyst in a deadly collision or serious injury, or if it encourages polluting the air we breathe, is it still okay?

There are three parties in this transaction: the seller, online advertiser and buyer. All have a duty of care to protect public safety.

The likelihood is the seller of a vehicle-tampering product or service is only interested in making money. And the buyer just wants the damn light on the dashboard to go off without having to fork out for proper repairs.

Which brings us to the online advertiser. With thousands of items uploaded for sale every day on selling sites it's difficult to keep track of everything. Or even fully understand the negative consequences advertising such products or services might have on the public.

But this is no excuse; where there's a will, there's a way, and I suspect there may be a hint of turning a blind eye in some instances as ads bring website visitors and hits generate revenue.

If you take a look at most online selling websites' T&Cs, it is prohibited to advertise products that are illegal or could lead to unlawful activity.

Under Irish road traffic law, it is an offence to use a vehicle which no longer complies with the construction and use regulations or with the exhaust control standards it was originally designed to meet.

Yet products such as electronic control unit (ECU) remapping devices, odometer rollback tools and Adblue emulators are all offered for sale through web vendors, classified sites or online marketplaces.

The ECU is essentially the brain of a vehicle. It identifies a problem - for example, if your brakes need to be checked or if your airbag isn't working properly. So when you start remapping a vehicle's ECU to override a problem, you're basically messing with its brain. And there's no telling what dangerous effect this could have.

With odometer rollback tools, the side-effect is more obvious, as an unsuspecting buyer thinks they've got a bargain only to find out the car has been clocked and its parts are about to fail.

With the likes of Adblue emulators, the effect is immediate. Adblue fluid is injected into the exhaust stream of a diesel engine to lower harmful emissions. Emulators bypass this, allowing toxic fumes to be released.

We have the right to drive on roads which are not littered with unsafe vehicles and to breathe in air that doesn't harm us.

So, perhaps it's time we asked the middleman to start taking more of an active role in clamping down on this activity?

Certainly, more pressure needs to be placed on web vendors and search engines to take responsibility for what's being offered on their sites.

A thorough sweep should be carried out regularly with the immediate removal of anything which could facilitate vehicle tampering or manipulation.

As a consumer, you can also report these ads to the vendor. I would encourage everyone to do so.

When it comes to website vendor integrity, let's ensure road safety is ranked first.

Indo Motoring

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