Inflatable safety jacket manufacturers Point Two and Hit Air are warning customers not to be tempted to use cheaper air canisters in their jackets – because they don’t have the same effect.

Both companies have received reports that you can buy canisters over the internet for a fraction of the price they charge for replacements.

“It seems crazy when people have paid out for an air jacket then to use these unsafe canisters for the sake of a few pounds,” said Freya Norrie of Point Two.

The issue came to light when customer Michelle Stubbs returned her air jacket to Point Two to be serviced and they found a foreign air canister.

Director Lee Middleton tracked down the Hungarian makers of the canister on the internet and found it cost just £2.50, compared with £17.50 from Point Two.

When he tested the canister, he found it had a much thicker casing and the piston that pierces the canister to inflate the jacket was unable to do so.

“I tried five and only one set off, and then it took a full second to inflate the jacket – ours takes 0.1 second,” he said.

“They are designed to be used in airguns, and although they look almost identical to ours, they have a different specification.”

Rachael Faulkner of Hit Air added: “I don’t believe they fit our jackets, but customers have asked why they need to pay £15 for one of our canisters when these are so cheap.

“The issue we and Point Two have is that we require a special licence to bring our canisters into the UK, as they are classed as hazardous goods, which is very expensive.

“We recommend that our customers only use our canisters in our jackets.”

Michelle Stubbs of Cuddington, Cheshire, told H&H she received the canister from a fellow eventer after she lent her spare one out.

She said she was aware of the safety issues but the difference in price was a big issue.

“Some of the girls on my yard would not consider wearing their jacket for breaking young horses, jumping lessons or cross-country schooling because, if they fell off, the session would cost an extra £17.50,” she said.

“Some of them said they would consider using foreign canisters [when eventing] as a way to save money.”

Lee Middleton urged riders to put safety first: “If you are still tempted to use these canisters, buy a few and test them first,” he said.

But he added using other canisters would invalidate the jacket’s warranty.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 February 2012)