Growing Problem with Counterfeit Electrical Products

Growing Problem with Counterfeit Electrical Products
Growing Problem with Counterfeit Electrical Products
Warning! Death, Injury, or Property Loss ahead
Counterfeit electrical products are a growing problem that can have serious consequences. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports fiscal year 2008 seizures totaled more than $272.7 million in counterfeit and pirated goods, a 38 percent increase in domestic value over fiscal year 2007. In the category of Top Safety and Security Commodities for fiscal year 2009, electrical products moved from 5th to 2nd position just behind pharmaceuticals.
Manufacturers and trade associations are devoting much attention to the effects of counterfeit electrical products.   People who work in manufacturing facilities should be mindful of the consequences of using inferior goods marketed deceptively under brand names of reputable companies. Such items known to be counterfeited include control relays, circuit breakers, receptacles, ground fault circuit interrupters and other electrical products.
Electrical standards and codes started in the 1880s with the commercial introduction of electrical power based on the understanding that electrical power can be dangerous. In many instances, counterfeit products appear to be genuine, but do not meet performance and safety specifications. Manufacturers of counterfeit products often use inferior materials and these “knock-offs” consistently fail independent certification testing from organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Everyone in the supply chain is at risk including distributors, electrical contractors, system integrators, machine builders, and users. The financial liability of such an incident will fall on those who participated in the supply and distribution of the counterfeit products.
Red Flag
Prices that look too good should be a “red flag.” Counterfeit products may appear to be attractive because of lower pricing. At a minimum, these “knockoffs” may perform poorly and fail early costing efficiency and production time.   A counterfeit electrical device can lead to fires, shocks or explosions that can cost workers their lives and produce considerable property damage.
There are no warning labels on counterfeit electrical products to tell of the dangers. If there were, the label might look something like this.

Unfortunately these products are disguised to look like well engineered and manufactured products from legitimate suppliers.
Counterfeit Products
Tom Grace, Anti-Counterfeiting Manager of Eaton's Electrical Business has provided examples of products with the clues that they are counterfeit. It is important to remember that this is a moving target as counterfeiters refine their methods.
Counterfeit MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker)
  • Incorrect use of Culter-Hammer Brand logo
  • Missing UL Certification
  • UL File Number for GE breaker NOT Culter-Hammer
  • Missing Supplementary Label with Barcode
  • Made in China Marked on Breaker
Counterfeit MCCB (Molded Case Circuit Breaker)

  • Unprofessional Packaging
  • Incorrect Use of Branding & Logo
  • Low Quality Packaging Labeling
  • Labeling Fonts, Bar Code; Markings Inconsistent with Genuine
  • Poor Fitting MCCB Nameplates
  • Use of a Hologram (Eaton does not use holograms)
  • Missing Barcode (breaker side), Missing Date Codes (breaker rear)
  • Lubricant Leaching from Breaker (note factory seal is contaminated)
  • Inferior Breaker Color and Finish
“Eaton is committed to anti-counterfeiting technologies and programs. We are striving to protect our customers from counterfeits that exist in the new global economy,” said Tom Grace, manager, Anti-Counterfeiting Initiatives, Eaton’s Electrical Sector. “All forms of counterfeiting are unacceptable, but electrical product counterfeiting has dangerous implications for industry and the public.”
Eaton Counterfeiting Resources
NEMA Anti-counterfeiting
Electrical Safety Foundation International
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition

About The Author

Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. 

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