Get Real: 10 Ways To Expose Counterfeit Electrical Products

1 Mar 2022

Est Reading time: 13 minutes

Every year, the growth of counterfeit electrical products rises at an alarming rate. As quoted from an article on safety, counterfeit electrical products made up 5 to 7% of world trade. It is important to take note of these products as they pose a severe safety risk to your operations and your precious uptime.

Using fake or counterfeit electrical products may cause overheating or short circuits – which lead to fires, shocks, or explosions that can cost you tremendous property damage or even worse, the lives of workers. 

As counterfeit electrical products usually don’t come with warranties, you can never be guaranteed of how well they can really perform. Tracing the origin of any potential failures can also be gut-wrenching and massively challenging.


If any, counterfeits also lead to economic losses, as customers return malfunctioned equipment. This in turn carries on to hefty liability injury lawsuits.

“One In Four U.K. Adults Have Bought A Fake Electrical Product Online”

In most cases, companies strive to do their best to improve operations and safety in workplaces. With the growing demand for ‘faster and better’ results, engineers and facility managers are often on the lookout for relevant and economical equipment and solutions to enhance productivity. 


While the prices of these solutions can be tempting and hard to resist, one should not forget the huge risks that counterfeit electrical products pose.


Counterfeit electrical products are items that use a trademark, copyright, or even appears exactly the same as another entity—without legitimate authorization. With dubious tactics and the sole intention of making a quick buck, the goal of counterfeiters is to scam and trick customers into believing that the product they purchased is genuine.

In today’s day and age where online sourcing for solutions and equipment is widely accessible, engineers and facility managers now have all the convenience and willingness to explore new options and suppliers. This spells huge opportunities for fraudsters or counterfeiters. 


Although trusting these supplies or vendors may appear to solve both procurement and operational issues, it may also lead to painful nightmares in the long run.


Oftentimes, companies don’t even realize how they have been duped into purchasing counterfeit electrical products. This is why it is important that you’re able to spot the difference.


Counterfeit electrical products come in many forms, such as clones, or recreation of other parts with the use of poor quality components for high-performance applications such as advanced power optimization or heavy-duty voltage protection. 


Identifying counterfeit electrical products is essential to helping you mitigate any possible negative impact in your workplace, allowing you to maximize electrical safety protection and ultimately, your productivity. 


Counterfeiter manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated with the rise of technologies, hugely focusing on fabricating ‘copies’ that look and feel exactly like authentic versions. This makes telling them apart a difficult task. However, it is greatly possible to do our part in weeding out suspicious electrical brands if we are fully equipped with the knowledge and necessary steps to protect ourselves.


Without further ado, here are 10 Preventive Steps to help you identify counterfeit electrical products, so you can protect your operations, and stay ahead of scams.


Avoid Suspicious Manufacturers Or Unauthorized Suppliers

Counterfeit Electrical Products

A famous saying goes “If You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys”…

So while low prices can be extremely tempting, there’s always a catch to it. Suspiciously low prices offered by unofficial manufacturers or unauthorized suppliers can easily seem like a good bargain. 


But the problem with that? 


Is in the inferior grade, subpar components built into these products!

Did You know?

It is common practice for fraudulent manufacturers to keep costs extremely low—by using RECYCLED COPPER for wiring?

Imagine how a simple faulty wire could potentially land you in a tremendously expensive lawsuit!


Also, if there was a malfunction or breakdown of your product, there is usually little to no chance you can track the source of the problem. 


This frustration would then force the end-user to reach out to the so-called supplier (if they’re even contactable). And how would they respond to your troubles?


The only advice you might get is, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, you probably have to purchase a new unit.” 


On top of that, just like every other unfortunate customer, this user is likely just another statistic, worried and waiting on the line—simply because they were penny wise and pound foolish.


Hence, it is strongly recommended that you avoid buying electrical products from such illegitimate suppliers.

What you should do is to source your electrical products only from official manufacturers or authorized distributors. At least if something goes wrong, you can be confident that they are accessible, and ever ready to assist you in your troubleshooting procedures.


If an equipment costs much lower than the average market price, be aware and take it as a warning shot that there might be some corners cut in the manufacturing process.


Because the last thing you’re looking for, is a severe problem that takes down your operations, your precious uptime, or even your entire business.
Through the next few steps, we demonstrate how to recognize certified and official electrical manufacturers, so you can shop with ease.


Ensure Your Electrical Equipment Are CE Certified

As quoted from the European Commission, the CE markings indicate that products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA) are accessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental requirements. 


By putting the CE marking to a product, a manufacturer declares that the product meets all legal requirements for CE and can be sold throughout the EEA. 

It is reported that one in four U.K. adults have bought a fake electrical product online. Some products can look really genuine but the listing, product, and packaging should all be marked with the CE Mark.


A CE certification would also mean that businesses can trade similar products with the CE bearing without any restrictions in the EEA.


If you are looking for information on CE markings in your country, contact the Enterprise Europe Network or check the list of contact points in the EEA.


Take note that a CE marking doesn’t mean that the product is approved by the EU or another authority, or even the origin of the product, so we have provided more steps below to identify counterfeit electrical products.


Demand For ISO Certification

Defined as the international standards for quality management, it is also the most popular standards organizations use to provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.


An ISO-9001 certification would also enhance an organization’s credibility by showing its customers that its products/services have met expectations and they are safe to use for consumers.

Visit this link to learn more about ISO-9001 certification.


Purchase From Reputable Manufacturers

Get Informed

Purchasing from reputable manufacturers with a sound backing will give you a sense of security, safety and confidence to enjoy the benefits from a high-quality product—that functions exactly as you’d expect, with no surprises.


Get Involved

Stopping counterfeit electrical products is a collective effort between manufacturers and consumers, here are a few panel manufacturers you can join to raise awareness and create necessary guidelines to stop counterfeits:


Scrutinize Like Crazy

It is always good practice to have a process implemented within your procurement journey to ensure your suppliers are reputable. 


Because no matter how simple or complex the requirements of your desired electrical equipment is, a high-quality product (that’s built to last), typically doesn’t come cheap.


So you’ll be looking for a solution that guarantees your investment is worth every cent.  


This is why it is crucial to only consider established manufacturers with nothing less than an outstanding track record of at least 10 years in full operations.


For peace of mind:


  • Request for the supplier’s portfolio of successfully completed projects
  • Read case studies (with the same application as your industry)
  • Number of years in operation

Case Studies

If you are purchasing electrical supplies from independent suppliers, you need to be extra cautious. Check out their reviews, accreditations and certifications if any (see point 1 and 2).


Avoid falling prey to counterfeiters by ruthlessly vetting your suppliers.


Conduct Quality Control Inspections

A quality inspection in fact will help to save lives or prevent potential hazards from happening in your workplace. You can also perform these inspections in-house or hire a trusted company to inspect for you. 


Stringent checks are strongly advised if you recently purchased from a new supplier or have grounds to believe that there’s a high risk you’ve purchased a piece of counterfeit products.

Also, the hired company should also be ISO 9001 certified and it should be accessible, transparent about its processes, able to seamlessly provide information and customer service.


If you are conducting your own quality control inspections, here are 5 common attributes in counterfeit electrical products to watch out for:


  • Texture – Texture for components should be smooth and consistent. If it’s rough and inconsistent, chances are the components are already modified. Another thing to note is the mould marks, which also should be smooth.


  • Marking – Different fonts, irregular alignments, and different sizes indicate signs of remarking, as well as a different orientation in part marking indicates that the component is counterfeit and already reworked.


  • Blacktopping – a coating that is removed by sanding or any method for employing a new part number, inspected by an acetone test. If the acetone removes the coating, then the parts are considered unauthentic.


  • Dimensions – By comparing the physical dimensions of the part with the datasheet specifications determines if the part is counterfeit if it doesn’t meet the specifications. Dimensions will be checked by using a micrometer or any measuring tool.


  • Condition of contacts – Leads should be straight and there should be an equal distance between each other. Additionally, if there are scratches, contamination or irregular plating and corrosion are the factors that indicate counterfeiting.


Carefully Inspect Your Product And Packaging

Be wary of tell-tale signs such as flimsy packaging, substandard printing, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. And if you’re still unsure, compare your item to an online image from a trusted manufacturer.


Here’s an example taken from Eaton to identify counterfeit electrical products. Can you spot the difference?


Take note of these 7 signs to help you better identify counterfeit electrical products:

  • Broken/Removed Factory Seals: Possibility that product has been tampered with, is no longer under warranty, not guaranteed to meet performance specifications.

  • Missing Date Code: The date code is removed to hide the age of the circuit breaker.

  • Mislabeled Product To Change Size/Type: Possibility that product has been tampered with, potential misapplication, higher risk of safety hazards.

  • Old Date Code: Products over 2 years old no longer have a factory warranty.

  • Counterfeit Seal: Seal is misspelt

  • No Barcode Or Serial Number: Product and purchase details are untrackable.

  • Missing Certification Stamps: The product could be illegally imported, does not meet regional electrical codes or safety standards.


Check for contact details

If the product is legitimate, you should be able to find the name and contact information of the manufacturer on the label.


Your electrical equipment should have a minimum of these 4 details:

  • Model Number
  • Serial Number
  • Electrical Specifications
  • Manufacturer’s Contact Details

If your product doesn’t have any labels, you’ll want to make sure that additional details such as contact numbers or the manufacturer’s address are printed to ensure the product’s legitimacy.


When in doubt, always cross-check the company’s website for dead links. Do not test the product and always safeguard yourself from any potential hazards or risks that may occur while using it. 


So what exactly do you do if you suspect your newly bought electrical equipment is not authentic?

No worries, we got you covered. 


Safety is everybody’s responsibility and consumers also have a part to play in stamping out counterfeit electrical products. 

Below are 2 more ways to overcome this major problem, permanently…


Report It To The Official Brand Or Manufacturer

In the worst-case scenario, if you have already purchased a counterfeit item, immediately report it to the original brand manufacturer. This will alert the manufacturer to investigate the counterfeit product and remove it from the marketplace if it is indeed counterfeit. 


  • If you are not sure of the product brand, contact the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, who will inform the relevant parties and remove the product from the marketplace.


  • Be as specific as possible. The more information the manufacturer has, the better chance it has to identify counterfeit electrical products and remove them to protect consumers.


  • When reporting counterfeit products, share a description of the product vendor’s name, business name, domain name, and other identifiers.


  • It is also helpful to share a description of the product, and other indicators that you may consider to be counterfeit. 


Elevate Your Knowledge On Counterfeit Electrical Products

Fighting against piracy is a proactive collaboration among distributors, contractors, and consumers in the electrical community. 


Relying on government intervention alone is not enough to stop deceptive counterfeit suppliers from wreaking havoc on your uptime, your operations, and your wallet.


At the end of the day, you can never be too careful when it comes to scams, which is why it pays to REALLY know the seller you’re dealing with.


So NEVER take the authenticity of electrical equipment for granted. Instead, stay curious, stay connected and ask questions.


  • Engage in relevant and established forums, such as Electrical Forum or Electrical Contractor. These online conversations and discussions will help you understand how the electrical supply chain works, where products and parts are coming from, and who are selling them.
  • Companies that have more stringent and refined procurement processes stand a better chance against counterfeiters.
  • Choose your suppliers wisely, plan properly, and your buying experience is guaranteed to be a smooth sailing journey. 

In Conclusion

To conclude, it is everyone’s responsibility to play a part in stamping out counterfeit electrical products


Adopt a zero-tolerance policy, while making safety and product authenticity your number one priority.


As one of Yahoo!’s nominated leading Automatic Voltage Regulator Manufacturers in the global power protection industry, Ashley Edison has joined the war on counterfeit electrical products. 


With over 40 years of sharing these industry knowledge, we hope that this comprehensive blog post—equips you with the necessary education to protect yourself, and your operations from dreadful scams and frauds in the electrical world.


If you’ve enjoyed this article, check out more insider tips and tricks on how you can take your operations to the next level, and effectively protect your precious uptime


P.S. Get notified with more educational content on our LinkedIn Page, as we engage with the community and share the latest electrical guides.

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