ESFI Offers Tips on Avoiding Counterfeit Electrical Products

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Over the past decade, U.S. seizures of counterfeit products have increased more than 325%. Consumer electronics, with a value of almost $40 million, were the top commodity seized in 2011. Counterfeit products can unknowingly be used in manufacturing, military, critical infrastructure, and consumer product applications. They not only endanger the economic health of the nation, but more importantly, put the safety of our families, communities, and employees at risk.

Counterfeit electronics are uniquely unforgiving and have been reported to start fires, explode, shock users and inflict burns. Today counterfeits are more sophisticated than ever before, making them difficult to spot. Every day, counterfeit electrical products are finding their way into our homes, businesses, and public institutions. These fraudulent products pose a serious financial and legal liability to the electrical industry, and they have become a grave safety crisis for our communities — a crisis that requires immediate action. Counterfeit electrical products pose significant safety hazards and can cause deaths, injuries, and substantial property loss in the home and the workplace if left undetected.

Electrical Safety Foundation International is offering the following tips to help avoid the purchase of counterfeit electrical products:

If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Compare prices of other similar products and avoid any that are drastically cheaper than the average.

Avoid products being sold without packaging or with packaging of poor quality.

Read through the labels and other text contained on the packaging. If you notice typos, misspelled words, poor grammar, or blurry text these may indicate a counterfeit product. The same standard holds true for website text.

Look for products that have been certified by a nationally recognized independent testing lab, such as such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The certification mark should be on both the packaging and the product.

Do a quick search to see if any product recalls, which include cases related to counterfeiting, have been issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or by nationally recognized testing laboratories (i.e., UL, ETL, or CSA).

Avoid unknown brands and products that do not display any brand affiliation or the name and contact information of its manufacturer.

Be wary of establishments that have a “no returns or refunds” policy.

Use established vendors who purchase their goods from legitimate distributors and genuine manufacturers.

Counterfeit operations often do not report their sales to financial authorities, so be suspicious if the purchase price does not reflect the required sales tax.

If in doubt, trust your instincts. No bargain is worth risking your safety.

NFPA estimates that 47,700 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments each year involve some type of electrical failure or malfunction as a factor contributing to ignition. These fires result in annual averages of 418 civilian deaths, 1,570 civilian injuries, and $1.4 billion in direct property damage.

ESFI recognizes that eliminating counterfeit electrical products from the electrical supply chain will require a collaborative effort that leverages new data to educate and advance awareness among the public and industry stakeholders. As such, ESFI will be deploying its newest anti-counterfeiting campaign later this year.

Therefore, IAEI is joining ESFI in commemorating “National Electrical Safety Month” by promoting new and updated electrical safety resources. For Electrical Safety Month 2014, the Foundation is issuing the publication, Electrical Safety Illustrated, which discusses timely electrical safety issues and provides tools to protect your home, family and communities better from electrical hazards. IAEI is also participating in ESFI’s Anti-Counterfeiting Survey; members should have already received invitations to respond to the survey. The results will be available this summer.

Visit www.esfi.org for more information on ESFI and for information on how to help us champion our anti-counterfeiting cause.

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About the Author

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home, school, and workplace. To commemorate National Electrical Safety Month, ESFI spearheads an annual campaign each May to educate key audiences about the steps that can be taken in order to reduce the number of electrically-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss. For more information about ESFI and National Electrical Safety Month, visit www.esfi.org.