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Growing Problem of Counterfeit Electrical Components

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 13th June 2014

We previously blogged about the issues with couterfeit electrical products such as televisions, chargers and computer equipment being branded as fake electricals and sold on line and on the high street often replicating the real thing.

Looking deeper into the problem

Producers of counterfeit electrical products do not just stop at well known electrical items.  In fact replicas of well known electronic products is only just scratching the surface of electrical counterfeiting.  Electrical components such as MCBs, RCDs and other wiring accessories make up the main haul of counterfeit products intercepted by anti-counterfeiting officials.  Since 2000 the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers' Association (BEAMA) anti-counterfeiting campaign has seen 15 million products seized by officials, the majority of which appear to be manufactured in China.


Calls for electricians to be vigilant

With electrical components being the main counterfeit problem, the electrical industry is asking electrical contractors to be more vigilant when purchasing materials from various outlets including local wholesalers and on line retailers.  Counterfeit electrical products are not tested for safety and have not been manufactured to any standard or quality control – factors that genuine manufacturers take very seriously by investing extensively into product development and the relevant electrical standards tests.

Counterfeit MCBs and RCDs are particularly hard to spot as they are often branded with a well known names, the outer casing appears identical to the genuine product even carrying certification marks and the same packaging. It is only on inspection of the inside do they reveal a very dangerous metal connection input to output and no actual mechanism at all meaning they will not perform their role.  Counterfeit MCBs fitted to consumer units will not activate in the event of a power overload.

Furthermore RCDs have been found that do not comply with the latest standards, in particular the new Electro Magnetic Capability (EMC) standards which ensures that RCD's continue to work even when there are high levels of sensitive electrical equipment which have been known to have an effect on the reliability and functionality of an RCD.  Furthermore a small but highly significant change to the RCD manufacturing process includes the addition of an adjustable cable clamp that assists electrical contractors when installing the RCD allowing the cable to be adjusted so it is secure and ensures the cable cannot work loose over time.

Spotting counterfeit products

In the majority of cases, counterfeit electrical products are sold at a much lower price than would be expected for a branded product.  If you are offered electrical components at a price that just seems too good then there is a reasonable possibility that you are being offered counterfeit electrical products.

To avoid such situations occurring, it is recommended to purchase materials at manufacturer approved suppliers or established on line outlets.  Such merchandisers purchase directly from manufacturers and are less likely to inadvertently purchase products from dubious or unknown sources.

Purchasing counterfeit products is highly dangerous and illegal.  Unfortunately counterfeit products can still slip the net no matter how conscientious the supplier is.

How electricians can help

The electrical industry is calling upon electrical contractors to be more aware of the safety requirements when they select materials.  Rather than simply accept products over the counter, electricians are being encouraged to ask for proof of compliance and legitimacy before purchasing products by checking for the latest BS and EN standards.  Whilst many products purchased at the local wholesaler can appear generic, it is essential not to overlook safety and risk purchasing counterfeit products that could endanger life.

The rising problem of counterfeit products can only reduce if electrical contractors insist on genuine certified products which in turn will reduce temptation by suppliers to purchase electrical products from unverified sources.

The electrical industry needs to work together in an effort to stop counterfeit products reaching households and address the growing problem of counterfeiting by squeezing the supply chain.  Squeezing the supply chain will affect those supplying the dangerous products in the first place.  By reducing their financial gains, they will lose interest and move on.