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Avoiding counterfeit electrical products

Have you ever bought a “knock-off” handbag or pair of sunglasses? They look pretty good but don’t last like the real thing. What about a counterfeit extension cord? Did you even know something like that existed?

Unfortunately, they do, and believe it or not, there are all kinds of counterfeit products, electrical and otherwise, coming into Canada every year, up to 54% are estimated to come from China. Counterfeits come from trashed or recycled products that are made to look like the new, higher end product currently on the market. Sometimes the parts have even come from American electronics manufacturers and been shipped to other countries where they are reassembled and resold. Sure they’re cheap, and they may even seem to work okay for a while, but there can be some very serious consequences.

Anything that runs on electricity, such as toys, appliances, extension cords, power tools, and other electronic devices, if not properly manufactured, can be unsafe and could cause shocks, electrical damage to your property, or even fires. Items like travel irons have been known to be made so poorly that there are exposed wires in the area meant to be filled with water, and power bars are common for starting fires, resulting from melting wiring.

Along with this, basic components in your electrical system like switches, circuit breakers and outlets can also be counterfeit, and this could also have disastrous consequences. For example, counterfeit circuit breakers could result in product malfunctions or failures causing injury as serious as electrocution or even death, as well as loss of power production, and equipment damage, which could necessitate extensive repairs.

It is estimated that electrical goods are the second most common type of product to be to be manufactured and sold illegally, so this type of counterfeiting is probably more common than we realize, especially with the increase in online retail sales and accessibility of international shipping.

Here are some ways to spot a counterfeit electrical product:

  • The price is unusually low, or seems to be just a few dollars below the cost listed everywhere else.
  • If you are buying online, be suspicious of unverified reviews.
  • The packaging is shoddy, and often has spelling mistakes.
  • The construction is poor. The item may feel light, flimsy, and not solid.
  • The package does not have a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) symbol, or other type of certification. Sometimes the package may have one, but the product does not.
  • The product likely doesn’t have a recognized brand name, or the brand name and logo are used incorrectly.
  • The product is normally sold in packages, but is being sold as an individual item, or it is missing supplementary materials or manuals.
  • Bar codes, labelling fonts and markings are inconsistent, or missing altogether.
  • The colour and finishing is inferior.

Trust your instinct, if the item you purchased varies in any way from those on sale at your local hardware store, do not use it.

If you discover you have purchase a counterfeit product here are some steps you can take:

  • Immediately contact the supplier.
  • Request a refund.
  • If the seller refuses a refund contact the retailer (for example Amazon) where you purchased the item directly.
  • Alert other customers by providing feedback.
  • Report it.

The police tell us that by purchasing counterfeit goods, you are not only hurting the legitimate economy, and creating job losses, but may also unknowingly be helping to fund organized crime or terrorist groups. Even more importantly, you’re putting yourself and your family in danger. In addition to this, if there are serious safety implications from the products you purchased, it will be impossible to trace back to the manufacturer or seller.

Criminals do such a good job of disguising these counterfeit products; it’s hard to tell they’re not the real thing. To be safe, buy licensed, brand name products at reputable retail outlets. Look for a valid CSA or ULC (Underwriters Laboratories of Canada) certification. With this certification, you know that samples of the product have been tested and have met CSA’s safety requirements.

If you suspect you have discovered a counterfeit product the best thing to do is contact the brand owner. They can authenticate the product and then make sure if the item is unsafe it is removed from the marketplace.

A low, low price on an electrical product may look tempting, but can you say it’s worth the risk? When it puts you and your family at risk, it’s definitely not.

For more information on counterfeit electrical products, or to get a home insurance quote, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.

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