Eaton aids coalition to stop counterfeit electrical products

Pittsburgh, PA—More than a dozen companies, including Eaton Corp., met earlier this year with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association's (NEMA) Anti-Counterfeiting Committee to address the growing installation of unauthorized electrical aftermarket products that jeopardize personnel safety and the integrity and code compliance of electrical distribution systems worldwide.

By Control Engineering Staff September 30, 2004

Pittsburgh, PA— Eaton Corp. reports that installation of unauthorized electrical aftermarket products is jeopardizing personnel safety, as well as the integrity and code compliance of electrical distribution systems worldwide. Eaton and a consortium of electrical industry representatives met earlier this year to address this growing problem.

More than a dozen companies, including Eaton, attended the spring 2004 meeting of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association ‘s (NEMA) Anti-Counterfeiting Committee. Established in 2003, this anti-counterfeiting program helps NEMA members understand how to protect their intellectual property rights; informs the public about counterfeit electrical products; exchanges information with other organizations concerned about counterfeiting; and works with law enforcement and public officials on stopping the spread of fake products.

‘The continued growth of counterfeit electrical products is a real concern for us,’ says Randy Carson, senior VP and group executive of Eaton’s Electrical business. ‘We’re inho can make an impact, and assist law enforcement agencies whenever possible.’

The first line of defense against counterfeiting is the engineers and operators. They’re encouraged to know their original equipment, including the manufacturer, and ensure they replace equipment with new, approved products.

Next steps for the NEMA Anti-Counterfeiting Committee include developing training programs for members and examining potential enforcement initiatives.

Eaton adds that the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection currently seizes approximately $1 million per month in counterfeit electrical merchandise. This is a substantial increase from the $4.5 million worth of counterfeit electrical products seized from 1997 through 2002. Logically, fakes that aren’t seized typically end up in the mainstream electrical components market.

‘Counterfeiting is growing,’ adds Clark Silcox, NEMA’s general counsel. ‘In fact, last November and December, shipments of products, such as extension cords and power strips, totaling $8 million were seized. It’s tough to put hard numbers on the counterfeit electrical market, but based on the anecdotal evidence I hear, it’s happening everywhere.’

Eaton and NEMA add that damage caused by counterfeit products goes far beyond economic loss to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This is because counterfeits jeopardize electric system performance and put plant-floor personnel in danger of electrical accidents. While there’s no cause-and-effect data directly tying counterfeit products to industrial accidents, there were 17,200 industrial facility fires in 1999, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These events resulted in 29 deaths, 609 injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.

One product particularly susceptible to counterfeiters because of its small size and ubiquity is the low voltage circuit breaker. It is the most common type of overcurrent protection, ensuring the safe flow of electricity in residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Without circuit breakers, the safe flow of electricity becomes nearly impossible. Lives and property are put at risk when breakers don’ perform properly.

‘Counterfeit circuit breakers have been found that are nothing more than a good looking switch, providing no electrical protection whatsoever,’ adds Silcox.

Besides jeopardizing code compliance and staff safety, using unauthorized products can invalidate existing warranties. For example, counterfeit breakers installed in switchgear can void that switchgear’s warranty. Warranty issues,

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jim Montague, news editor