The Dangers of Counterfeit Electrical Supplies

The Dangers of Counterfeit Electrical Supplies

One of the most important aspects of electrical work is safety. Of course, you’d always be sure to cut the power when doing any work, use proper grounding techniques, and wear appropriate clothing, but did you think about making sure that your parts aren’t counterfeit? It’s a bigger issue than you might realize.

A Rising Problem

Counterfeit products make up as much as 5 percent to 7 percent of world trade. As technology advances, it’s becoming increasingly easy to produce products that look like the original, but chances are, those products won’t function nearly as well. Most people are aware of counterfeits in the world of fashion and watches, but electrical imitations are on the rise and carry much bigger risks.

While many of the imitation electrical parts are intended for consumers, such as power strips and laptop chargers, other parts are being marketed directly to contractors to install in homes. Some of the products that have been revealed to be fake have included fuses, circuit breakers, lighting components, smoke detectors, ground-fault circuit interrupters, and electrical connectors.

As more homes become equipped with smart technology, issues with counterfeit electronics will likely continue to increase and cause even greater problems when they fail.

A Deadly and Expensive Risk

Unethical contractors might think that using cheaper parts is a way to cut corners, but it might end up costing them much more in the long term. Legal fees, liability payments, and loss of reputation for the business are just some of the factors that might have an unexpected impact after a part fails.

A loss of power to the home could easily turn deadly if the electrical service goes out in times of extreme weather, or for a person who needs to power medical devices. A sparking wire could start a fire that destroys a whole home and injures or kills its residents. A malfunctioning smoke detector could be the difference between life and death. Broken parts could cause electrical shocks or even explosions.

How can you find the fakes?

Unfortunately, many fake products have become impressively difficult to distinguish from their real counterparts without entirely disassembling them. However, there are some warning signs that could possibly suggest that your part is counterfeit.

• The price seems too good to be true
• The logo doesn’t seem quite right
• The packaging seems cheaply printed or constructed
• The product is not being sold by an authorized distributor or another reliable source
• It’s being sold via auction
• It came from a used or surplus equipment dealer
• The product is shipping from China or another distant country
• Incorrect part numbers
• Incorrect date codes

If you’re still uncertain, try contacting the brand owner to determine if a product has all the right features to be trustworthy.

While legitimate products might come from those sources or could come at a nice discount, a variety of sketchy factors should be a red flag that something isn’t right. The small amount of savings isn’t worth the risk to your customers or your business.

Awareness is Key

Having the knowledge that these counterfeit products are out there is an important first step. Keep a sharp eye and questioning mind when dealing with electrical or electronic parts, and you’ll be doing your bit to protect your business and your customers.

Have you ever had issues with counterfeit electronics? What was it and how did you handle it?

1 Comment

  • Karl Ess says:

    Although now retired, I started my apprenticeship in 1954. From K&T to solid state. And yet this master electrician got snookered in a big box store. Bought a name brand smoke detector that failed within 90 days. Only after the replacement failed even faster did I discover it to NOT be of the brand name I had believed to have bought. “Caveat Emptor” (let the buyer beware) and ‘there’s no fool like an old fool’. The good news is that neither of these bogus detectors failed me when they needed to alert me – no damage & no loss of life.

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