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Car firm run by a Formby man has been fined over £100k for selling counterfeit goods


A car accessory firm named Euro Car Mats Ltd which was run by a Formby man ripped off customers and motor companies to the tune of about £200,000, a court has heard.


Euro Car Mats Ltd sold bogus car mats and accessories online to unsuspecting customers all over the UK using the trademarks of reputable car manufacturers and when investigators raided their premises in Merseyside they found 12 aisles of floor to ceiling racks containing the counterfeit items.


They also found sewing machines and steam irons for applying the fake fabric brand names and computer equipment used for sales and financial records.


The two company directors, John Blundell 63, from Formby and Kevin Halford 56, from Maghull, denied 67 trade mark offences and after their company admitted 49 of the offences no evidence was offered against the two men and not guilty verdicts were recorded.


The company, which operates from premises on the Knowsley Industrial Estate, was fined a total of £49,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £54,000. The counterfeit items and equipment seized in the raid has been forfeited.


Liverpool Crown Court heard that the company has continued to trade lawfully since the raid in November 2014 and Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, pointed out, “Ironically their profits have increased since they stopped trading in counterfeit goods.”


Mr Ian Whitehouse, prosecuting told the court: “This case concerns the company advertising and selling car accessories on the internet as branded goods knowing they were counterfeit products. In order to facilitate this they had a quantity of blank car mats and other products and applied counterfeit fabric brands to these items and presented them as legitimately registered trade marked products.”


Inquiries began in January 2014 when private investigators employed by BMW began looking into claims that their trade mark was being infringed on car mats sold via Ebay. An investigation commenced along with Knowsley Borough Council, which brought the prosecution, and 11 months later armed with a search warrant they forced entry into the premises, which were unoccupied, and found the incriminating evidence.


“In a rear storage area they found 12 aisles of racking, floor to ceiling, with car mats and boot tidy bags with badges with registered trade marks,” he said.


The trademarks included those of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Renault, Suzuki, General Motors, Honda and Nissan.


The court heard that when the two directors were previously trading as Euro Hood and Car Mats they were convicted in 1998 of similar offences.


Sentencing the company Judge Flewitt said that the firm had “ripped off both the customer and the proprietors of the registered trade marks.”


He described it as “a relatively sophisticated offence involving a significant degree of planning. The motivation was purely financial, committed purely to increase the company’s profits.”


He pointed out that after Halford received a warning letter from Ford Motors in January 2013 they had stopped using Ford trade marks “but ”cynically continued trading using other offending goods.”


Dan Travers, defending, said that it had been almost three years since the premises were searched and “they are delighted this has now come to a conclusion. They have learnt a very important lesson.


“They now focus entirely on a market to customers and dealerships which does not involve badges.”


He said that the industry had been their whole careers … “and they regret this stain on their character.”


The court heard that during that trading year their turnover was £396,000 with a profit of £43,000. They have traded lawfully each year since and the last figures shows a turnover of £705,000 and a £72,000 profit.

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