Reduce the risk of your buying decisions
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.
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 (www.iacc.org)
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, 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.
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.eaton.com/counterfeit
Tom Grace is a member of the Eaton global anti-counterfeit advisory committee. Email: TomAGrace@Eaton.com
Crossing your fingers when ordering parts won’t save you from receiving counterfeit electrical goods. Photo / Thinkstock