The market is experiencing a large increase in counterfeit electrical products sold through grey markets. This has been going on for a while, about 20 years. Over the last 5 years the rate of growth of counterfeited and grey market products has exploded – up 538%. This post will address counterfeit electrical products and why they can hurt you. Grey market goods covers a wide spectrum of products sold through various channels. Counterfeit electrical products are often sold through the grey market.
Counterfeit electrical products are risky.
Counterfeit electrical products are inherently unsafe and have been shown to pose a danger to any facility where they are installed. Many are intended as circuit protective devices, however, because they are unsafe look-alikes, they cannot be trusted. Counterfeits tend to have a high risk of failure or malfunction, which can cause electrical shock, overheating and short circuits. The result is often equipment failures, fires or explosions leading to loss of life or property damage. See the infographic to learn more about counterfeits, 4 things you should know about counterfeits.
What are they?
These look-alike products rely on deception, internet marketing and low prices to attract buyers. According to Eaton Corp. counterfeit products are found in many electrical product categories. They include control relays for industrial equipment, circuit breakers, receptacles, ground fault circuit interrupters, power strips, surge suppressors, power cords and more. Some are used, or outdated products. Many, however, are illegally manufactured ‘knock-offs’ lacking U.S. certification. Read more in the Eaton counterfeit and grey market guide.
How do you spot them?
Some fraudulent goods are very hard to spot. The people who sell them attempt to make them appear as well-known brands, such as Eaton MCCBs. (See photo above.) Here are a few tips to help you spot counterfeits.
- Missing or old date code on the face of the product
- Factory seals are broken or have been removed
- Non-English text or labels in other languages
- Low quality labeling or misspelled English words
- Old Westinghouse or Challenger brand labels. These brands have not been produced since 1999 and 1997, respectively
- Missing UL® stickers indicating a probable illegal import that will not meet U.S. electrical codes
- Product is not in a carton or in an older, white carton. This could indicate a used or outdated product.
How big is the problem?
As already noted, the problem is large and growing. The number of seizures of counterfeit shipments by U.S. Customs increased 44% in 2011. In the past 20 years, counterfeiting has increased 10,000%. That’s right, 10,000%.
Counterfeiting of well-known brands of technology and consumer products in the U.S. in 2015 is estimated to cost $250 billion. The impact on jobs lost every year due to counterfeiting is estimated at 750,000 jobs (Source: IACC). U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that 13% of all counterfeited goods seized were electrical products, the second highest of any category. See the overview of Counterfeit products – What they are, the harm they cause.
It is a global problem with worldwide counterfeit electrical products costing the industry $600 billion a year.
What can you do about it?
Eaton has adopted a zero tolerance policy for counterfeiting and you should too. Arm yourself with information so you can spot phonies. Report suspicious products, or dealers to Eaton directly at Unauthorizedproducts@eaton.com If the product you are about to buy is not in the original carton, has been opened or resealed, or there is no carton, make sure you know why. Many of the sales of counterfeit products are done over the Web from sellers you probably don’t know. See the Circuit breaker authentication guide for information on how to spot authentic breakers. Bottom line: know the seller you are buying from.
For assistance, contact us at 800.993.3326, or email at AskEECO@eeco-net.com
You might find the following links useful in better understanding counterfeits