Keeping Your Home Safe: How to Identify and Manage Counterfeit Electrical Products
Typical terms like “organized crime” and “counterfeit products” bring to mind burly men in fedoras. It sounds both intangible and strange: disconnected from our normal, busy lives. But, did you know that counterfeit products actually pose a serious, dangerous risk for the safety of your home? In fact, counterfeit electrical and electronic products are second place after pharmaceuticals in the piracy ‘world’, providing millions of dollars in business.
Electrical products at high risk to be counterfeit include basic fuses, breakers, cables, and work tools, among other products. While these simple components may appear legitimate upon purchase, the reality is that these products are sub-standard and pose a realistic electrical hazard in your home. Another reason to avoid purchasing counterfeit products is that the product may be linked to organized crime and could even finance or profit their criminal activities.
A study that was commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce found that up to 80% of consumers have purchased counterfeit electrical products. The purchases are made without awareness that the products pose a risk. However, once consumers are advised about the risk associated with purchasing cheap or low-grade electrical products, they typically change their purchasing habits.
Counterfeit electrical products are often available at discount prices, which makes them a convenient purchase. Frequently, counterfeit electrical products are purchased on impulse; they fill an immediate need, are used and often thrown out. Their appeal is how affordable they are for families and individuals limited by income.
Unfortunately, even one counterfeit or sub-standard component in an electrical or electronic product can cause fire, shock, or even explosions. This is due to the fact that counterfeit products are not tested according to present-day safety standards and are not approved for use within the province of Ontario.
How to Identify Counterfeit Products
If you suspect you have purchased a counterfeit product, there are a few basic things you can check:
First, look over the original packaging and determine that the style, layout and quality of any printed documentation are legitimate:
- Check for language use, grammatical errors, and unusual fonts. Are there any unnecessary stamps or labels missing?
- Read any accompanying documents such as certificates or instructions, and check for spelling errors, language use errors or unusual fonts?
- Are there any discrepancies between documentation accompanying the packaging compared to what is already labeled on the product?
Second, do a basic external check of the product:
- Does the product feel unusual to the touch (i.e. check the thickness of any cords; is the weight or shape of the product unusual?).
- Any brand logos and markings – are they legible and clear? Are dates and number codes consistent between packaging and documentation?
- Does it appear that there have been any physical or cosmetic alterations to the product?
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a Canadian organization, if homeowners suspect that they have purchased counterfeit products or components, they should:
- Make sure any electrical and electronic products/ components are approved by a certification agency
- Check for any registered recalls
- Purchase electrical and electronic products from reputable manufacturers and retailers
- When having products repaired, use qualified and licensed professionals?
Also, if you have questions about the quality of your electrical products, or whether they are certified, you can always refer to a reputable retailer. In Kingston, these companies many include industry suppliers such as Rona, Home Depot, Lowes, and Canadian Tire. You can also verify the approved markings on the labels. Products approved for use in Ontario should have particular stamps on them. A list of approved certification stamps is provided here:
We strongly recommend making a habit of purchasing your electrical products through a reputable company or retailer. Moreover, call a licensed electrical contractor to wire your electrical projects. We purchase from reputable, approved suppliers.
Finally, if you have an electrical or electronic product that is counterfeit, you can report it through a form from the Electrical Safety Authority’s website from here:
For the purposes of this blog we used information from the following links. If you are interested in learning more, choose any of the links below: