Fake scooters unsafe, warns man who invented the original

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 May, 2000, 12:00am

UP to 70 per cent of the scooters whizzing around Hong Kong footpaths are fakes that could put children in danger of serious injury, the Swiss company behind two popular models has warned.

Micro Mobility Systems, which shares the patent for the popular Razor and Micro scooters, said cheap but convincing imitations had flooded the market and were a potential risk to users.

Company chief and inventor Wim Jan Ouboter, who was in Hong Kong last week after visiting factories on the mainland, said the fakes were not made to the same standards as the originals and could snap under pressure. 'Absolutely it's a safety problem. These scooters are made out of aluminium and they're not heat-treated, so they're not strong enough. But they're such damn good copies that most people can't tell,' he said.

The company, which estimates 100,000 scooters have been sold here in recent months, said trouble could arise when children did tricks or jumps and tested the strength of their scooters.

'There might be some fatigue in the raw materials. It's likely that some of the key welds or stress points could just break. Depending where your foot is or what your body motion is at the time, you could find yourself in real trouble.' Mr Ouboter said Micro Mobility, which also makes the popular Kick Boards, was shocked by the number of fakes sold in Hong Kong, where scooters have proved immensely popular since being launched in Japan 10 months ago.

He said key features of the Micro skate-scooter, such as the folding mechanism, the telescopic bar and the braking system, were patented and registered on the mainland where the originals and the copies were both made.

The patent is shared with the legitimate manufacturer of Micro scooters, which makes the Razor models. Razor was the counterfeiters' main target.

'In Hong Kong it's incredible - the fakes are probably about 70 per cent of the market at the moment,' Mr Ouboter said.

'This week, walking through the streets and especially the night markets, we have seen them all over the place. Some are 100 per cent knock-offs - they're copying our name, they're copying our box, everything.' Others were more subtle copies, made under a different name but using patented features without permission.

'Hong Kong is really known for having fakes - I've been walking around and probably four or five people a day are asking if you want a fake Rolex.' He said the best way for consumers to judge whether they were buying an original or fake scooter was the price; the originals cost more than $1,000 and the copies $350 to $400.

Stopping the flow of fakes on to the market was a losing battle; Micro Systems had two mainland factories shut down this month for churning out counterfeit scooters.

'But I can tell you this is impossible because as soon as you close them, they're going to open again,' Mr Ouboter said.