In a recent survey conducted with the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), a national trade association for merit shop electrical and systems contractors, Eaton found that educational campaigns focusing on the dangers and prevalence of counterfeit electrical products are working.
The results of the survey show that members understand the potential safety dangers of counterfeit products.
Members also recognize that the industrywide issue is continuing to grow and becoming more difficult for consumers to detect. In 2013, more than $270 million of such products was seized by US Customs and Border Control; that's an 85% increase from 2012. This is the third year in a row the amount has increased by more than half. As counterfeiters become increasingly sophisticated, it's also becoming difficult to detect the difference between a counterfeit product and an authentic product.
IEC members overwhelmingly said the best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to purchase directly from the manufacturer's authorized distributors or resellers. However, the results also reveal that more work is needed to share best-practices and encourage collaboration in order to thwart counterfeiting.
Counterfeit electrical products often use inferior materials without regard for labeled ratings or customer safety. Using such products can result in malfunctions that cause serious injuries (including electrical shock) or even death. They also can cause significant property damage.
While IEC members are educated on the dangers of counterfeit electrical products, survey responses disclosed that such products continue to be found in the field. When they are found, a vast majority of respondents don't know where and how to report the fakes.
To address the problem of counterfeit electrical products meaningfully, awareness and collaboration are vital to enact measures that will lead toward more effective detection and reporting of counterfeit electrical products. Continued education is needed to raise awareness among those who could identify a counterfeit, encouraging them to contact the brand owner. This will allow authentication of suspect products and ensure that potentially unsafe products are removed from the marketplace. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.eaton.com/counterfeit.
As an industry, we need to raise our game and provide contractors with easier ways to properly identify and report counterfeit products and build collaboration between manufacturers, design engineers, industry organizations, and government.
Tom Grace is the brand protection manager for Eaton's Electrical Sector Americas.