Each year, the counterfeiting of well-known electrical brands continues to increase worldwide. In fact, counterfeiting is estimated to make up five to seven percent of world trade. This is a disturbing global trend that requires industry professionals, including design engineers (in their role specifying and sourcing electronic components), industry organizations, manufacturers, governments, and customers to work together to keep these dangerous products from causing harm to people and property.
But first, all parties must understand the dangers associated with non-genuine electrical components.
A counterfeit is a product, service or package for a product that uses, without authorization, the trademark, service mark or copyright of another intended to deceive prospective customers into believing that the product or service is genuine.
Counterfeit electrical products, many of which are intended to serve as protective devices, are unsafe lookalikes. Such counterfeit components, including circuit breakers, extension cords, and surge protectors, are often made without regard for electrical safety or meeting minimal performance specifications.
Using these counterfeit electrical devices can result in malfunctions, causing overheating or short circuits that may lead to fires, shocks or explosions that can ultimately cost workers their lives and produce considerable property damage. Professionals across all industries should understand the implications of using suspect, fraudulent or counterfeit electrical products in their work environments.
To prevent these unsafe devices from causing harm to your work environment, you must take action. The below tips and best practices will help you properly avoid, identify, and report suspected counterfeit electrical equipment.
Purchase directly from an authorized distributor. The best defense against component counterfeiting is to always buy authentic, direct from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or resellers. There is a higher risk of counterfeits if you cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.
Taking the time to safeguard only genuine products, procured directly from authorized resellers will help prevent unplanned outages, reduce costs, and mitigate safety risks associated with counterfeit products.
Conduct thorough evaluation. It’s difficult to spot a counterfeit when you see one. Counterfeits are becoming more and more sophisticated, using deception, the Internet, and prices below market level to attract business. To confirm your component’s authenticity, thorough evaluation is critical.
Be leery of poor-quality labels with legacy branding, missing date codes, and extraneous markings or labeling not applied by the original manufacturers. Quality components will use branded packaging on nearly all component products for easier identification. Other companies provide laser-marked labels for their molded case circuit breakers (MCCBs), which require more sophisticated technology to manufacture and are designed to be more tamper-resistant, helping to authenticate each circuit breaker throughout its life cycle.
Also, when buying electrical equipment, be cautious of “bargains.” Compare the price of products to similar products at a different retailer. If the price seems too good to be true, it likely is.
Lastly, use tools provided by the original manufacturer or certification organizations to verify your electrical device’s authenticity.
Report suspect products. If you suspect a product to be counterfeit, report it to the brand owner immediately. This will allow authentication of the suspect device and ensure that the potentially unsafe product is removed from the marketplace.
If you cannot find brand contact information, don’t stop there. Reach out to the IPR Center who will disseminate the information for appropriate response. Contact the IPR Center at IPRCenter@dhs.gov or 1-866-IPR-2060.
The implementation of counterfeit electrical components into the workplace puts businesses at risk for considerable financial loss and property damage. Industry organizations, manufacturers, government bodies, and customers must all work together to stop the sale of counterfeit products, preventing suspect products from causing harm to people and property.
If everyone played an active role in stopping counterfeit products from being bought and sold, the demand for counterfeit electrical products would decrease. Reducing the spread of counterfeit electrical products can help to maximize electrical safety protection. Taking a united stance will lead to more effective detection and reporting of counterfeit electrical products, ultimately keeping dangerous products from entering your work environment.