This National Electrical Safety Month, You Can Help in the Fight Against Counterfeiting

Throughout the month of May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month to spread awareness of the electrical hazards found in residential and commercial settings. This includes increasing public understanding of the dangers associated with counterfeit electrical products.

In occupational settings that feature electrical equipment, it is important for professionals to understand that counterfeited electrical products can have threatening implications for industry workers and facilities alike.

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 that the product or service is genuine. Counterfeit electrical products, many of which are intended to serve as protective devices, are unsafe lookalikes. Such counterfeit products, including circuit breakers, extension cords, and surge protectors, are often made without regard for electrical safety or even meeting minimal performance specifications. Using these counterfeit electrical products 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.

Counterfeiters rely on deception and prices that are below market level to find their way into the workplace. This makes detecting the difference between a counterfeit and an authentic product extremely difficult, especially as counterfeiters become more sophisticated. In addition, the sophistication of shipping counterfeit products is adding to the difficulty of detection. A counterfeit shipment takes an indirect shipping route to the intended destination. In some instances, the counterfeit products and other infringing components are shipped separately, further increasing the difficulty of detection. Due to these counterfeiting practices, deceptive manufacturers can easily circulate potentially dangerous products throughout the marketplace.

This May, we encourage workplaces to join the dialogue about counterfeit electrical products by reviewing anti-counterfeiting practices and strengthening their ability to avoid, identify and report counterfeits.

Four Things You Should Know About Counterfeits

  • Know counterfeits are hard to spot. The more sophisticated counterfeiters become, the more difficult counterfeit products are to identify. The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to purchase products from the manufacturer’s authorized distributors or resellers. There is a higher risk of counterfeits if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer.
  • Know your resources. Take advantage of the resources available surrounding counterfeiting. Many companies and organizations are leading efforts to protect public health and safety by providing tools, tips, and information to help professionals avoid coming into contact with potentially dangerous electrical devices. For instance, Eaton's Circuit Breaker Authentication (CBA) tool allows customers to detect whether Eaton's molded case circuit breakers (MCCBs), up to 400 amperes, are counterfeit.
  • Know how to report a counterfeit. If you encounter a counterfeit in the field, report it to the brand owner. This will allow authentication of the suspect product and ensure that it is removed from the marketplace. Contact Eaton at [email protected]. If you cannot find a brand's contact information, contact the IPR Center, which will disseminate the information for appropriate response. Contact the IPR Center by emailing [email protected] or at 1-866-IPR-2060.
  • Know that you can help. If everyone played an active role in stopping counterfeit products from being bought and sold, the demand for counterfeit electrical products would decrease. Reducing the spread of counterfeit electrical products can help to maximize electrical safety protection.

It is crucial to work together to prevent these unsafe counterfeit products from causing harm to people and property. Eaton operates under a zero-tolerance policy for counterfeits and is committed to furthering its anti-counterfeiting initiatives, including technologies and programs that help thwart counterfeits from circulated through the supply chain. Slowing the proliferation of counterfeit products can help to ensure maximum electrical safety levels for consumers.

For an illustrated counterfeit fact sheet intended to be shared in the workplace, visit and download the "4 things you should know about counterfeits" PDF under the Documentation tab in the Communications section.

Tom Grace is the brand protection manager at Eaton's Electrical Sector – Americas.

Posted by Tom Grace on May 26, 2015

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