Counterfeit electrical products are a huge and growing problem. Counterfeit products worth billions of dollars enter the U.S. each year. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 13% of all counterfeit products seized are electrical products, ranking them second among all category totals.
The manufacture of counterfeit electrical products is popular because the profits are outsized, and it’s difficult to pinpoint where bad products are originally made, and who is responsible for exporting them.
Generally, counterfeiters don’t go to the expense of having products tested and verified by an approved third-party testing lab designated as a nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL) such as MET Labs, but they will sometimes produce fake approval logos.
To lower costs, counterfeit products typically have substandard design, materials, and/or manufacturing quality. Counterfeit electrical products present serious health and safety risks to consumers and to the electrical industry. These products can overheat or cause short circuits, leading to fires, shocks or explosions that can kill people and produce considerable property damage.
Manufacturers, distributors, and installers of electrical products also face legal risks for trading in counterfeit products — even if they are victims of counterfeiters.
To protect yourself from the purchase of counterfeit electrical products, observe these 5 guidelines. If you are an electrical product manufacturer, encourage your customers to do the same – you never know when one of those bogus products will have your brand name on it.
- Buy from a reputable source. Purchase products from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or a known retailer.
- Examine labels, documentation and packaging. Check for certification marks from organizations that certify the quality and performance of electrical products. Avoid products that lack any identifying branding label or have poor-quality labels, missing owner’s manual, out-of-date product codes, and suspect packaging.
- Verify authentication. Use tools provided by the original manufacturer or certification organizations to verify electrical products are authentic. For a MET-safety-labeled product, verify authenticity in the MET Labs Online Safety Certification Database.
- Examine the product. Quality control is often lacking in counterfeiting operations, so you may be able to spot a counterfeit based on its workmanship.
- Avoid bargains. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If a product is suspected to be counterfeit, contact the brand owner and report your concern to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement: 1-866-347-2423.
Read about how the MET safety mark compares to UL.