ESFI’s Counterfeit Electrical Products Survey: Inspecting the Results

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In recent years local, federal and international authorities have combined their efforts to thwart counterfeit operations and seize fake products before they hit the market.  In addition, the media and public safety organizations have helped consumers broaden their knowledge of potential counterfeit products beyond apparel and accessories to include dangerous commodities such as pharmaceuticals and consumer electronics. With great strides toward safety being made by the public, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sought to investigate this issue specifically within the electrical industry.

In 2014, ESFI conducted a survey to investigate the perceptions regarding counterfeit electrical products as experienced by professionals within the electrical industry. The survey found that a majority of the 932 respondents were “extremely concerned” about counterfeit electrical products. Of those who identified their sector, inspectors were most likely to be “extremely concerned” about counterfeits. Inspectors were also the group most likely to identify counterfeits as an “urgent threat.” These results are not surprising given that nearly one-third of survey respondents reported discovering counterfeit electrical products while on the job, and those identified as inspectors discovered counterfeits with the greatest frequency of all groups surveyed. Inspectors, who have encountered counterfeits with the greatest frequency within the industry, bring the most awareness to the issue.

Almost 55% of all respondents believe their company does not provide adequate training about the issues related to counterfeit electrical products, and there is no discernable difference among industry sectors on this point. Greater awareness and education are needed to protect all sectors of the industry and the people they serve. ESFI offers these tips for inspectors to help reduce the prevalence of counterfeit electrical products and promote electrical safety:

Convey the value of the legitimate supply chain: Inspectors are uniquely positioned to educate multiple sectors of the industry about the value of the electrical supply chain. A legitimate supply chain is the best defense against the infiltration of counterfeit electrical products; products that are disastrous to any home, workplace or business reputation. Help your clients and business partners understand the services you and the supply chain provide.

Stay abreast of counterfeiting trends and techniques: Manufacturers are taking steps to thwart counterfeiters and help consumers verify the legitimacy of their products. Check updates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the IPR Center (www.iprcenter.gov) about recent developments regarding counterfeits and the dangers they pose.

Educate your clients:  Help your clients understand the true value of an inspection and not just view it as something to cross off their “To Do” list. Clients may not realize that an inspection not only determines if the home or building is in compliance with applicable codes, but also tests products to ensure they are properly functioning. This proactive investigation helps protect inhabitants from injury, loss of life, and possible liability issues arising from electrical incidents in the home.

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Through the generous support of Eaton, Hubbell Incorporated, Schneider Electric and UL, ESFI’s “Zero Tolerance for Counterfeits” program offers a variety of ready-to-use resources that can help you begin the conversation about the dangers of counterfeit electrical products. This program is also committed  to helping educate the electrical industry and is in the process of developing a webinar series featuring panelists most familiar with counterfeiting issues within the electrical industry. To view the first installment, “Counterfeiting: Understanding Your Risk and Liability,” and other anti-counterfeiting resources visit www.esfi.org.