Know what you can do about counterfeit electrical products

Four tips to help identify and avoid counterfeit electrical products.


Eaton’s Circuit Breaker Authentication (CBA) tool can be used by customers to determine if the company’s molded case circuit breakers (MCCBS) are genuine or counterfeit. Courtesy: EatonIf you’ve been following this blog for a few weeks, you are now becoming familiar with the potential safety, economic, and brand reputation consequences of counterfeit electrical products. It is my hope that you are even inspired to join in the fight against these products through your role in the electrical industry. 


As the designers of electrical work environments, consulting and specifying engineers can consider specifying that only authentic electrical equipment from authorized resellers be used in the final build. This will not only provide the contractors of the project with the assurance of genuine goods, but also the customer. 


Working with electrical contractors that are also aware of these dangers, and how to avoid and identify counterfeit electrical projects, can also build on this assurance. The following are the top four tips for avoiding and identifying counterfeit electrical products of which contractors should be aware. 


1. Buy authentic: The best way to avoid counterfeit electrical products is to specify and purchase products from the manufacture’s authorized distributors or resellers. There is a higher risk of counterfeits if one cannot trace the path of commerce to the original manufacturer. 


2. Verify authentication: When possible, use tools provided by the original manufacturer or certification organizations to verify electrical products are authentic. For example, Eaton’s Circuit Breaker Authentication (CBA) tool is designed to allow customers to detect if Eaton molded circuit breakers (MCCBs), up to 400 amp, are counterfeit. By entering the bar code, part number and date code found on the circuit breaker, the CBA tool is intended to immediately verify authentication.


3. Scrutinize labels and packaging: Check for certification marks from organizations like UL that certify the quality and performance of electrical products. Avoid products that lack any identifying branding label or affiliation. Be leery of additional markings or labeling not applied by the original manufactures with missing or poor-quality labels, out-of-date product codes, and non-genuine packaging. As counterfeiters become more sophisticated, counterfeit products become even more difficult to detect this way, creating an increasing need for additional scrutiny.


4. Avoid “bargains”: When shopping for electrical products, avoid “bargains” that seem too good to be true. Compare the price of that product to a similar product at a different retailer. If it seems too good to be true, the odds are it is.


If anyone suspects that a product is counterfeit, they should ask the brand owner for validation of the suspect product. If there is a discrepancy, this will help ensure that the potentially unsafe product is removed from the marketplace.


With a new year around the corner, now is a great time to reflect on opportunities you may have to help in the fight against counterfeit electrical products. Please share the opportunities that you identify in the comment section below. 


Have a very happy and safe holiday season!

As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness, training, and prevention. This involves building awareness of the risks that counterfeit electrical products present to personal safety and the economy with end customers, contractors, inspectors, and electrical resellers.

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