The perils of buying parts online

In the current climate, many tradespeople have turned to ordering online to help cut down on their exposure to others. Whilst this is clearly a sensible step to take, Natalie Bird, category manager at Graham Plumbers’ Merchant, urges installers to be aware of the risks associated with ordering parts online – and the benefits of only using genuine spares. 

With the coronavirus pandemic leading to the temporary closure of merchant stores, many installers were temporarily driven to online options. Although merchants have since reopened, concerns about coming into contact with others has led to many continuing to look online. Unfortunately, unknown suppliers selling counterfeit spares are rife online and may mislead installers into thinking that they are purchasing genuine spares. As a result, it is not always easy to spot fake parts.

Furthermore, competition in the plumbing and heating sector often results in installers being under constant pressure to keep their costs low to remain competitive in the market. This means it can be tempting to consider cheaper products available online to help reduce costs. However, while cost-effective, when purchasing from an unknown retailer there is no guarantee that the product you are buying is genuine. Incorporating one of these products into an installation can create a number of issues down the line, which will often cancel out any savings made on the initial price by cutting corners on parts.

Track and trace
Arguably the most important reason why only genuine products should be used in an installation is that fakes pose serious safety issues, particularly when used in conjunction with gas appliances, and can cause the building occupants to be at risk. Genuine products will offer an element of traceability, so that any concerns can be raised quickly and efficiently, as well as evidence of product testing to ensure they are safe to use. In contrast, counterfeits provide no guarantee of the materials used, product testing, quality or support if an issue with the item occurs.

If a non-genuine spare is used on a project, this will also invalidate the warranty of the product it is used in conjunction with. For example, a counterfeit heating valve on a boiler will mean any other issues that occur with the boiler will no longer be covered by its warranty. This can inevitably lead to both the installer and customer spending more money, as manufacturers will not cover the cost of any necessary maintenance as they normally would.

In addition, if a non-genuine spare has been found to cause issues with a boiler, shower or bath for example, the whole system may need to be taken apart to solve the problem. This can lead to the homeowner paying for the associated damage, such as re-tiling the bathroom – which can be expensive.

Look for the CE label
The good news is that there are a number of things installers can do to help them select the best products for their customers and avoid the risks associated with non-genuine parts.

One of the main things to keep an eye out for when looking to purchase spares is a CE marking. CE markings demonstrate that the product has gone through testing in order to meet a harmonised standard across the UK and Europe. It has been part of our law since 2014 and provides peace of mind that the product is safe.

In some circumstances, you may find that a customer has bought a part for you to use already. If so, it is still crucial to check the part first to ensure it is compliant. This includes asking where the product was purchased, whether an instructions manual was provided and also looking to see whether it has the appropriate CE and manufacturer makings. If there are any doubts about the part’s origins or quality, your concerns should be explained to the customer and the part should not be installed.

Furthermore, by purchasing through a reputable merchant, that will only stock genuine products, installers need not worry about the validity of their purchase, providing ultimate peace of mind.

Graham Plumbers’ Merchant offers a full range of heating spares and a dedicated, knowledgeable team in each branch to answer any queries. We understand that the current climate has driven many installers to purchase online; so, to make this process easier, we have launched a new Bybox service. Rather than ordering for collection in branch, we can distribute in-stock products to a national network of designated Bybox lockers for contactless, local collection by the installer. Orders placed before 12pm can be collected with next day delivery before 8am and orders can also be placed online via Graham Direct with an account.

To find out about your local branch’s opening times, operating procedure and the delivery methods currently available from Graham, please click here:


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