January 5, 2014

The idea for this post comes from “Plant Engineering”, May 2013 publication.

If you are in the engineering profession you know that counterfeiting of components and assemblies is a huge problem for tier one suppliers and end users.   Counterfeiting of well-known brands and products is a growing problem estimated to be between five and seven percent (5%–7%) of world trade.  This represents approximately $600 billion (yes with a “B”) each year.  Some months ago the Machine Design Magazine published an article highlighting this issue with fasteners imported into this country.    Many of these fasteners did not meet standards and specifications required by companies and agencies doing the purchasing.  The life expectance was, in some cases, greatly diminished and premature failure under load was a huge factor.  The Department of Defense (DOD) was greatly concerned and started requiring much closer incoming inspections for fasteners purchased from overseas suppliers.    Counterfeit health and safety products such as electrical and electronic assemblies now occupy second place after pharmaceuticals on the list of those most frequently seized by U.S. Customs.   Electrical products with off-quality assembly and “bogus” components can overheat causing fires, shock hazards and other significant safety problems.  These illegal products do not need to comply with performance and safety specifications and they many times are not tested and approved through a third party agency.

By definition, a counterfeit is a product, service, or package for a product that uses, without authorization, the trademark, service mark, or copyright of another intended to deceive prospective customers into believing the product or service is genuine.  This makes detecting the difference between a counterfeit and authentic product very difficult.

The following list of seven (7) tips may aid your efforts in avoiding counterfeit components and products:

  • BUY AUTHENTIC—The very best way to avoid counterfeit products is to make purchases from the manufacturer’s authorized distribution network or resellers.  Traceability can then be assured.
  • VERIFY AUTHENTICATION—When possible, use tools provided by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to verify products are authentic.  This includes UL, ETL, CE, NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association) etc. certification.  It probably also includes in the advertised package 1.) Owners’ manual or use and care guide, 2.) Warranty card, 3.) Installation instructions, 4.) Contact numbers for problems that may arise during use, 5.)  Web site for additional information and customer support.
  • SCRUTINIZE LABELS AND PACKAGING—Check for certification marks on the packaging and avoid products lacking any identifying branding or labels.  Be very leery of additional markings or labeling not applied by the OEM.   Look for poorly labeled products and date codes obviously in error or out of date.
  • AVOID “BARGAINS”—If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Make comparisons with other products of the same type.  In other words—shop the product.  Use the Internet to research the product prior to purchase.  It is not a bad idea to call the manufacturer is questions of authenticity arise.
  • PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO PRODUCTS PURCHASED—You MUST look the product over to determine if in your own mind the quality of workmanship is what you would expect from a “brand-name” manufacturer.  Be cautions of products that seem cheap and poorly assembled.
  • MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS THERE—Counterfeit products often don’t include supplementary materials such as owner’s manual or product registration cards.  Sometimes, even parts are missing.
  • REPORT SUSPECTED COUNTERFEITS—Contact the brand owner and let them know you suspect a counterfeit product has been purchased.  Let them “chase” the imposter.  This action could insure the product is removed from the marketplace.

If you are buying online, I would definitely ask associates and wholesalers for recommendations relative to the products advertised.  Their misfortune once known could save you time and trouble and most of all provide safety for the end-users.

Any comments you might have will be greatly appreciated.

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