eBay is selling faulty gear: Here’s what you need to know
In early April, a “whistleblower” of faulty gear contacted a UK-based consumer blog upon discovering that modified climbing harnesses were being sold on eBay. On April 8, 2016, the site, called Suffolk Trading Standards’ Blog, issued a warning to anyone who had bought a Petzl Aspir harness from eBay seller “surplusandlost,” who was selling harnesses that had been “cut repaired and tested” for about $18.
New, unmodified harnesses go for $50 online, but $18 is an exorbitant price for a modified harness that could prove fatal for any of the eBay users who have made this purchase. Upon being notified about this faulty product, Suffolk Trading Standards immediately contacted the seller who has since issued a recall. They have been contacting customers who have bought the harness warning of the risks and offering a full refund for the faulty gear as compensation. More than 100 harnesses have been recovered.
According to Suffolk Trading Standards, an investigation into the Petzl harnesses revealed that they had been “cut and disposed of to prevent their sale.” A third party in France then recovered the harnesses, stitching them back together to be sold for a profit on eBay. Reparations were done by an unauthorized channel, giving them no guarantee as to their safety.
On April 22, 2016, Petzl, a French company, issued an alert denouncing the modification and sale of the harnesses as a “malicious act.” It claimed that the faulty gear has been seized, and an immediate halt of their sale on eBay has been requested.
The alert also contains photos of the modified harness displaying the places where the harnesses had been cut and stitched back together, like on the waistbelt and the leg loop leg loop security straps. The alert urges owners of the Petzl Aspir harness to check for these modifications.
Petzl claims that these modifications “greatly affect harness strength, rendering the harnesses non-compliant with our internal requirements and with regulatory requirements.” Tests carried out on recovered harnesses demonstrate that they are over 7 times weaker than original, unmodified harnesses. The faulty gear sold on eBay can “break under the slightest impact,” according to the alert, which concludes that the harnesses “must be destroyed” due to the serious risk of death they pose.
According to an online article about the modified products on Outside magazine, Petzl is working with the French law enforcement to investigate how, where and by whom the faulty harnesses were recuperated, re-stiched and sold. Rick Vance, the Petzl America Technical Director, says that the harnesses “appear to be from one institutional user, like a climbing gym, or we think it may have been a military center or something like that, which had a large number of them,” according Outside magazine. The magazine also reports that, in this state of ambiguity, it remains unclear whether charges will be brought if they discover who altered the faulty gear.
Each harness is provided with a serial number allowing Petzl to trace its original point of sale, according to Vance. This will prove a crucial element in the investigation into the faulty gear case, and to the possible accusation of the person responsible for this faulty gear.