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Toshiba warns trade of misleading branding

Toshiba Air Conditioning has urged the trade and end users to beware of misleadingly labelled air conditioning following a rise in complaints about sub-standard equipment.

David Dunn, general manager of Toshiba Air Conditioning, says: “The issue of inferior products masquerading as the real McCoy is long-standing and well-known in the consumer market. However, on the basis of recent evidence, it is now also becoming a problem in the air conditioning sector.”

He added: “We are urging buyers to pay special attention to claims made about equipment marketed by non-mainstream suppliers, and, in particular, questionable use of logos, which give the impression products are made by premium manufacturers.”

The issue came to light three years ago when the company began getting distress service calls from end user’s whose equipment had failed, or which was not performing to specification.

“We were receiving two or three such calls a week. Last summer, this had escalated to the point where we were receiving more calls each day about non-Toshiba equipment than our own. On one particularly infamous day, we received over 70 such calls,” says Mr Dunn.

For the manufacturer, in addition to the logistics of managing this volume of calls, there is the obvious potential for reputational damage to the brand. For the contractor and end user, there is the frustration, cost and lost time in dealing with equipment failure, and trying to find the appropriate company to deal with the problem.

Questionable labelling takes a number of forms. A unit may contain a legitimate component from a premium manufacturer, and on the strength of it have a large logo misleadingly emblazoned on the front of the equipment. A tiny logo belonging to the actual manufacturer may be placed unobtrusively elsewhere on the kit.

“While this perhaps stops short of gross misrepresentation, it is hard not to conclude that the effect on an unwary buyer is to give the impression that the unit has been manufactured by a reputable manufacturer, with all the warranty, reliability and quality assurance support that comes with it,” says Mr Dunn.

Toshiba has identified a handful of manufacturers who have used this kind of practice, and more than 20 suppliers and internet-based companies selling such air conditioning products into the UK market.

“This is a significant supply channel and would account for the substantial volume of calls Toshiba have received, indicating a sizeable installed base in the market.”

Toshiba is raising awareness of the issue, issuing bulletins to the trade and customers advising them to look out for units masquerading as Toshiba. It is also assisting Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers in ongoing investigations.

Mr Dunn says: “For the avoidance of doubt, Toshiba air conditioning equipment in the UK is only supplied by Toshiba Carrier UK Limited  or our authorised distributors / wholesalers as identified on our website.

“Whatever it says on the outside, it is only made by Toshiba  - and supported by us - if sourced through this channel.”.

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