Electronic Products & Technology

Why buy authentic? The case against counterfeit products

By Tom Grace, manager, brand protection, Eaton’s Electrical Sector – Americas   

Electronics Supply Chain counterfeit counterfeit parts

The importance of recognizing and reporting counterfeit components

The counterfeiting of popular brands continues to increase each year, costing industries $1.77 trillion annually. Specifically, electrical product counterfeiting makes up an estimated five to seven percent of world trade. These counterfeit electrical products, including circuit breakers, extension cords and surge protectors, are unsafe lookalikes that have the potential to harm both people and property.

According to Ontario Electrical Safety Authority’s electrical safety report, the percentage of product safety investigations into devices with suspected counterfeit labels reached 16 percent in 2012. By 2013, the percentage rose to 38 percent. This is a disturbing trend that needs immediate attention across industries.

Understand the dangers of non-genuine products

It will take the collective efforts of industry professionals, organizations, manufacturers, governments and customers alike to remove these dangerous devices from the marketplace. However, these groups must first understand the dangers of non-genuine products, as well as how to both recognize and avoid them.


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 that the product or service is genuine. Many of these components are intended to serve as protective devices, and often made without regard for electrical safety or even meeting minimal performance specifications. The use of such counterfeit electrical devices can result in malfunctions causing overheating or short circuits that may lead to fires, shocks or explosions that can ultimately cost workers their lives and produce considerable property damage.

Tips and best practices for avoiding

So, what can industry professionals do to prevent these products from entering their work environments? Here are a few tips and best practices for avoiding, identifying and reporting suspect counterfeit electrical products:

Purchase authentic products: The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products in the first place is to buy authentic from an authorized distributor or reseller. There is a higher risk of counterfeits if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.

Eaton’s ‘Power of Authenticity’ program allows authorized distributors to source and supply authentic products quickly and efficiently to electrical professionals. The program offers competitive prices, stocking programs, authorized service centers and loyalty programs, making it easy for distributors to purchase authentic devices.

Know what to look for

Know what to look for: Before you can report a counterfeit good, you need to know how to identify one. Counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated, creating products that are difficult to recognize and using deception, the Internet, and prices below market level to attract buyers. Be sure to question any ‘bargains’ with prices that seem too good to be true, because they likely are. Saving a few dollars at first is not worth exposure to the long term safety risks that accompany faulty products.

Also, take note of any poor quality labels with legacy branding, missing date codes and extraneous markings or labels not applied by the original manufacturers. Any product that appears to have been tampered with, is missing information or is noticeably poorly made should raise a red flag. Take advantage of any authentication tools offered by manufacturers to confirm the authenticity of suspect products.

Who to contact regarding fake parts

Report counterfeit products: If you come across a suspect product, report it to the brand owner immediately. The owner can then authenticate the device and remove it from the marketplace. If you cannot get in touch with a brand owner, contact the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association at 1-800-222-8477 or by WebTip. Professionals in the U.S. can contact the IPR Center who will disseminate the information for appropriate response. Contact the IPR Center at IPRCenter@dhs.gov or 1-866-IPR-2060.

If everyone along the supply chain played an active role in stopping counterfeit electrical products from being bought and sold, it would lead to more effective detection and reporting of counterfeits, ultimately keeping dangerous products from entering your work environment.

For more information about counterfeit electrical products, visit www.eaton.com/counterfeit.


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