“Don’t risk selling or installing counterfeit and non-compliant electrical installation products – you are risking prosecution and you could be endangering lives” warns Alan Birks, President of BEAMA Installation.
Alan, who is Distribution Channel Manager for Eaton, is concerned at the increasing sales of counterfeit wiring accessories, circuit-breakers, fuses, cables and lighting products in shops, DIY stores and electrical wholesalers. “Some of these products are not only substandard – they are downright dangerous” he says.
“This is not just scaremongering – we have tested fuses with no sand filling or fuse elements; we have seen ‘miniature circuit-breakers’ with no overcurrent protection. These devices are intended to protect the public but if they are exposed to a short-circuit current they could explode, causing injury, fire or even death, Another problem is the use of unsuitable moulding materials that will not withstand the stress of short-circuit currents.
“Counterfeiting can take various forms. The products may be passed off as those of a genuine manufacturer. In other cases they are illegal copies of the genuine product, but are offered as cheaper alternatives. Sometimes genuine and counterfeit products are mixed in a consignment. There are no guarantees with counterfeit products, which are unlikely to have been tested to the appropriate standards. Any CE marking is fraudulent.
“This is a worldwide problem. In some countries up to 75% of the electrical components on the market are counterfeit. The situation in the UK is not as serious as this but it does give cause for concern. One death caused by faulty goods is one death too many and those who sell or install faulty goods bear a heavy responsibility.
“British electrical manufacturers are leading the world in combating this trade at source through the BEAMA Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group. Since 2000, more than 200 factories producing counterfeit goods have been raided in China, 10 million products have been seized with their packaging and tooling. BEAMA also seeks to lobby governments and import/export agencies for greater controls.
“In the UK, BEAMA has joined with the Electrical Distributors Association (EDA), Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) and Select (the Scottish electrical contractors association) in drawing up The Electrical Installation Industry Charter to combat this trade. The charter is a commitment to develop initiatives and actions in the battle against the ‘trade’ in counterfeit and non-compliant electrical products and to develop a surveillance and intelligence-led anti-counterfeiting network to combat the distribution and installation of such products.
“Non-compliance is a related problem. This includes products from reputable manufacturers which are designed for export markets but are then sold back into the UK. Although they will be quality products, if they are intended for export outside the European Union they will not be ‘CE’ marked. So their sale in the UK is illegal. Furthermore they may be designed for different standards and operating conditions, for example they may be calibrated for a higher ambient temperature than UK products.
“The message for UK specifiers, distributors and installers is:-
- NEVER handle products that you know, or suspect, are counterfeit
- Only buy from people and organisations you trust (the new Electrical Installation Industry Charter will help identify reliable organisations)
- Check the packaging and labelling for any alterations
- Check for ‘CE’ and other relevant certification marks
- Check that the price is in line with what you would normally expect to pay
- If in doubt, contact the brand owner
“Our appeal to specifiers, distributors and installers is ‘Don’t kill your customers’.”
Eaton’s electrical business is a global leader in electrical control, power distribution, uninterruptible power supply and industrial automation products and services. Eaton’s global electrical brands, including Cutler-Hammer®, MGE Office Protection Systems, Powerware®, Holec® and MEM®, provide customer-driven PowerChainTM Management solutions to serve the power system needs of the industrial, institutional, government, utility, commercial, residential, IT, mission critical and OEM markets worldwide.
Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company with 2007 sales of $13 billion. Eaton is a global technology leader in electrical systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has 82,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 150 countries.
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