Re­duce the risk of your buy­ing de­ci­sions

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - MAINTENANCE MATTERS -

In many in­stances, coun­ter­feit prod­ucts ap­pear to be gen­uine, but they are un­able to meet min­i­mum per­for­mance

Man­u­fac­tur­ers of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts of­ten use in­fe­rior ma­te­ri­als with­out re­gard for meet­ing pub­lished rat­ings or safety.

These “knock-offs” con­sis­tently fail in­de­pen­dent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion test­ing from or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Un­der­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries (UL). In­stead, coun­ter­feit prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ers rely on de­cep­tion and prices that are be­low mar­ket level to find their way into our homes, businesses and elec­tri­cal in­fra­struc­ture.

Coun­ter­feit cir­cuit break­ers can re­sult in prod­uct mal­func­tions or fail­ures and can also cause se­ri­ous bod­ily in­jury in­clud­ing elec­tric shock, elec­tro­cu­tion, and even death. Coun­ter­feit cir­cuit break­ers are also ca­pa­ble of sig­nif­i­cant property dam­age.

Cir­cuit break­ers are de­signed to pro­vide cir­cuit pro­tec­tion for power dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems, and to safe­guard people and equip­ment. A breaker fail­ure means the loss of pro­duc­tion, pos­si­ble equip­ment dam­age ne­ces­si­tat­ing costly sys­tem anal­y­sis and re­place­ment, and the in­creased risk of worker in­jury at the time of fail­ure or dur­ing main­te­nance.

The fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity of such an in­ci­dent will fall on those who par­tic­i­pated in the sup­ply and dis­tri­bu­tion of the coun­ter­feit prod­ucts.

Un­ex­pected costs

In ad­di­tion to safety, coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts can add additional costs in the pur­chas­ing process. If a buyer is shop­ping on price alone, with­out re­gard to trace­abil­ity of the prod­uct or the na­ture of the chan­nel pur­chased from, it is only later in the pro­cure­ment process that is­sues can even be iden­ti­fied.

These is­sues can cause de­lays dur­ing shut­downs or sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the costs of the prod­ucts be­cause of short- term de­liv­ery re­quire­ments or ex­pe­dit­ing freight and ship­ping.

If the safety haz­ards and fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity posed by coun­ter­feit prod­ucts fail to at­tract your at­ten­tion, the eco­nomic con­se­quences should. This in­cludes lay­offs due to un­fair com­pe­ti­tion and re­duced cus­toms and sales tax rev­enues, re­sult­ing in greater fi­nan­cial bur­dens for businesses and in­di­vid­u­als.

World­wide, coun­ter­feit­ing costs the elec­tri­cal prod­ucts in­dus­try US$ 600bn an­nu­ally. In the United States, that fig­ure is $200-$250bn – coun­ter­feit­ing re­duces US em­ploy­ment by 750,000 jobs each year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional An­tiCoun­ter­feit­ing Coali­tion (

Com­bat­ing coun­ter­feit­ing

Stop­ping the sale of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts is ev­ery­one’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. This in­cludes man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors, re­sellers (au­tho­rized and unau­tho­rized), gov­ern­ments and cus­tomers alike. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is go­ing to be key to stop­ping coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts.

Aware of the dan­gers coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts on con­sumers, man­u­fac­tures are tak­ing mea­sures to help pre­vent coun­ter­feits from en­ter­ing the sup­ply chain. For ex­am­ple, Ea­ton’s elec­tri­cal busi­ness has adopted a strict pol­icy for coun­ter­feit­ing and is com­mit­ted to anti-coun­ter­feit­ing tech­nolo­gies and pro­grammes.

This in­cludes en­hanc­ing prod­ucts with la­bels and mark­ings to more eas­ily iden­tify and thwart coun­ter­feit­ing, build­ing aware­ness among con­sumers on the dire con­se­quences of us­ing in­fe­rior goods marked de­cep­tively un­der brand names of rep­utable com­pa­nies, and en­gag­ing with govern­ment and law en­force­ment to cre­ate stronger de­ter­rent penal­ties and take ac­tion against il­licit man­u­fac­tur­ing, im­porters and bro­kers of coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts.

In­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions

In­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as the Na­tional Elec­tri­cal Man­u­fac­turer’s As­so­ci­a­tion (NEMA), en­able mem­ber com­pa­nies in the elec­tri­cal in­dus­try to fo­cus their col­lec­tive ef­forts on iden­ti­fy­ing ways to stop coun­ter­feit­ing.

In­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tion by NEMA can be used to pro­mote laws, reg­u­la­tions, or govern­ment di­rec­tives. Other in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Elec­tri­cal Safety Foun­da­tion In­ter­na­tional (ESFi) rely on en­gage­ment from the elec­tri­cal in­dus­try sup­port­ers to pro­mote con­sumer aware­ness of coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts. These col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts carry a stronger mes­sage to the pub­lic.


In or­der for gov­ern­ments to be ef­fec­tive at block­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts at cus­toms and borders, laws need to be en­force­able while sup­port­ing the vic­tims and not the crim­i­nals.

The en­gage­ment of govern­ment to cre­ate stronger de­ter­rent penal­ties, es­pe­cially where safety is­sues are con­cerned, is cru­cial to stop­ping coun­ter­feit­ing.

The govern­ment also needs

in­dus­try’s sup­port and col­lab­o­ra­tion to be ef­fec­tive. A high de­gree of brand holder en­gage­ment with law en­force­ment is key to suc­cess­fully en­forc­ing in­tel­lec­tual property rights (IPR) laws and tak­ing crim­i­nal ac­tion against il­licit man­u­fac­tur­ing, im­porters, and bro­kers of coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts.

Proac­tive con­sumers

As the last step in the sup­ply chain, cus­tomers can help com­bat coun­ter­feit­ing by ed­u­cat­ing them­selves on how to iden­tify a coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­uct and avoid­ing buy­ing them.

The first step in iden­ti­fy­ing a coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­uct is to rec­og­nize that they are dif­fi­cult to iden­tify. Many coun­ter­feit prod­ucts are hard to de­tect be­cause they con­tain the trade­mark or ser­vice mark of the gen­uine brand, or use the ap­pear­ance of a well-rec­og­nized ar­ti­cle, which may not in­clude the tags or la­bels.

It is im­por­tant to know how to spot a coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­uct up­front at the very be­gin­ning of the pur­chas­ing process. There are many pre­cau­tions pos­si­ble for pur­chas­ing de­ci­sion mak­ers to be­come more con­fi­dent that their fa­cil­ity is free of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts.

First and fore­most, the best way to avoid coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts is to buy prod­ucts from the man­u­fac­ture’s au­tho­rized dis­trib­u­tors or re­sellers.

If a prod­uct is sus­pected to be coun­ter­feit, it is rec­om­mended to con­tact the brand owner. This will al­low au­then­ti­ca­tion of the sus­pect prod­uct and en­sure that the po­ten­tially un­safe prod­uct is re­moved from the mar­ket place.


Coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal prod­ucts are a real dan­ger to our safety, businesses and econ­omy. The coun­ter­feit­ing in­dus­try is overwhelming, but that’s no rea­son to give up and let it con­tinue. With col­lab­o­ra­tion among man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions, re­sellers, con­sumers, govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions and more, real steps are be­ing taken to com­bat the is­sue – but there is more to be done.

Check your Ea­ton prod­ucts: www.ea­­ter­feit

Tom Grace is a mem­ber of the Ea­ton global anti-coun­ter­feit ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee. Email: TomAGrace@Ea­

Cross­ing your fin­gers when or­der­ing parts won’t save you from re­ceiv­ing coun­ter­feit elec­tri­cal goods. Photo / Thinkstock

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