There’s a thread on British forum Horse & Hound that has been making it’s way around the internet this week about an incident with a KEP helmet and subsequent customer service. If you haven’t seen it, go read it here. Be forewarned, it’s a really long thread. If you aren’t really interested in devoting that much time to being properly horrified, here’s a summary:
Girl falls off horse when he stumbles while trotting in the grass. She lands on her face/chest, impact somewhere near her temple area. It was not a hard fall. She was able to immediately get up, key in her phone’s PIN code, and call someone to catch her horse (so obviously not too terribly concussed or confused). The helmet looked like this
Her own words: “As you can see the panelled design of the hat cause the hat to fall apart on impact. In fact the hat was no longer on my head after the fall but was hanging in pieces around my neck, held together by the harness!”
Luckily aside from some abrasions and bruising she was uninjured in the fall.
Let’s take a moment to say Holy Crap. A helmet should not crumple apart like a chocolate orange upon impact, especially a fairly light impact. I cannot imagine the damage that could have been done if she’d been stepped on or kicked after the helmet fell apart. Granted, that’s my personal opinion.
So let’s give KEP the benefit of the doubt for a minute and say “Well let’s see what KEP has to say. Maybe this is a weird one-off situation.”
Here’s where KEP really shot themselves in the foot. Brace yourselves.
“I spoke with KEP Italia this morning and informed them of my accident and that their hat had fallen apart on impact. They told me that they do not deal with customers directly and will only deal with the distributor. They told me to follow procedure and to take the hat back to the shop I bought it from, they will return it to the distributor, who will then return it to KEP. KEP will then carry out an investigation and will either offer me a new replacement hat or they will repair the old one“
Repair the old one? WHAT? Never, under any circumstance, should a helmet be repaired after a fall. But maybe she just heard them wrong. Surely they didn’t say that, right? Luckily KEP themselves came onto the thread to speak up for themselves, thus taking away any possible misinterpretation. KEP’s response said
“When she called the person who answered the phone had not been informed about this issue and didn’t know who she was. She thus received the standard answer, including the request to provide photos via the retailer when she had bought the helmet. We usually ask our customers to at least see the photos, so that we can see what the issue is. Of course in Mrs. Smith’s case, the helmet cannot be repaired. ” and “he set some examples and talked about replacing, repairing and refunding, like we always do.”
So in fact, according to KEP, it is their “standard answer” to offer to replace, refund, or repair a helmet. Wow. Even if it’s something as minor as replacing the harness, this seems like a huge liability to me. I can’t imagine the possibility for lawsuits if someone sustained a serious injury in a “repaired” helmet.
Never fear though, it actually gets worse! KEP goes on to say that perhaps this person isn’t being truthful about the nature of her fall
“I’m really sorry to see Mrs. Smith’s reaction against our helmets after her fall. I would like to explain to her that a such a breaking of a helmet during a fall can only be caused by strong impacts received at the moment of the crash, or by the kicking or rolling of a horse on the helmet.”
“assuming Mrs. Smith is not liar, we suggest one of a few things:
. that Mrs. Smith fell on a harder ground than she thinks, or that she fell in a more powerful way than she recalls;
that Mrs. Smith’s hat was not properly fastened (this is a very common situation unfortunately) and that she lost the helmet after she fell. In this case the horse might have stepped on the helmet in its effort to stand up after falling, or that it stood on the helmet in any other way;
Another, and worse, thought came into our mind: that someone might intentionally be mounting up this case with the precise purpose of damaging KEP Italia’s image. KEP Italia is a growing company and we know for sure that some of our competitors are reacting in a bad way to this, some of them even scaring off kids at shows by telling them stupid and false stories. “
So they went from calling her a liar to saying that perhaps she was making all of this up on purpose just to sully KEP’s image. Unprofessional doesn’t even begin to cover an accusation like this. Neither does astounding. There are really no words.
KEP also posted this text from their helmet’s instructions, which indicate that this helmet is in fact DESIGNED to destruct upon impact.
“Although this helmet reduces the chance of injury, in some circumstances injuries cannot be prevented. This helmet was not designed to protect your head if crushed by a horse. The degree of protection provided by this helmet depends on the circumstances of a particular accident. Using a protective helmet does not always prevent death or long-term disability. This helmet is designed to absorb the energy of a blow through partial destruction of the shell or protective padding material or both. This damage may not be visible and therefore any helmet, which suffers an impact, should be discarded and replaced by a new one as it may have exhausted its ability to absorb further shocks.”
I don’t know about you but that seems really concerning in a sport where there are often secondary blows beyond the initial impact. I’ve fallen a lot, I’ve seen helmets take a lot of impacts, and I’ve never once seen one completely split apart like that. If the helmet falls apart when you hit the ground, what happens when you then get stepped on, or fallen on, or if you end up bouncing or being dragged?
But yet again, let’s pretend we can move beyond that…
Someone else on the thread spoke out about a similar thing happening to their helmet and didn’t have many nice things to say about their opinion of KEP. The KEP representitive sent that person this private message:
“We are aware of your defamatory words against our products and our company in various posts on this Forum.
Please stop saying lies about our company. We ask you to take your responsibility for what you say and reserve the right to take any legal action against you if you do not cease to defame our company in the continuation of these posts.”
So basically… if you don’t like our helmets, you better shut up about it or we’ll threaten to sue you. What in the world is going on here, KEP? It was bad enough that the helmet split apart, but the ensuing words and actions from your company have turned this into nothing short of a complete and utter fiasco.
After reading this thread on H&H I took to Tumblr to see what all had been said about these photos there. Again I figured let’s play devils advocate and see if this really was in fact a one-off type situation. Several people on Tumblr came forward and said they’d had the same experience. I was able to contact 3 of these people and confirm that yes, their helmets also split apart upon minor to medium impact. One of them was told by KEP that this is how they are designed to work. The other two were told by KEP that they had never heard of this happening before. I don’t know if y’all are confused, but I sure am.
So, I encourage everyone to go read that thread on H&H and see how this played out with your own eyes and form your own opinions. Especially if you own or are considering purchasing a KEP helmet. The things posted by KEP are very thought-provoking, to say the least. I have no doubt that when KEP finds this blog post they will threaten me with legal action as well, but at this point this is a huge safety issue AND a huge customer service issue, and IMO it just can’t be swept under the rug and made to “disappear” with threats.