Counterfeit Cables

Cut CablesWhat are Counterfeit Cables?

Manufacturers purchase wires and components they believe are legitimate only to realize afterward that the materials do not meet industry requirements. Sometimes the counterfeit parts have been passed off under a brand name but are not actually built by that brand. They are made of lower quality materials that cannot perform the necessary functions required of the cable or harness.

When the proper materials are not used, it is like cooking a meal with the wrong ingredients. Does it matter if you use salt instead of sugar? Can you use milk that’s expired? It will taste close enough, right? Like cooking with bad ingredients, there is a high risk to using counterfeit parts.

Why are Counterfeit Cables Dangerous?

While the cable manufacturer may be one of the victims of cable fraud, they could also take the blame for any problems caused by the counterfeit parts.

Damages caused by counterfeit cables can include:

  • Affected performance
  • Diminished safety
  • Fire danger
  • A stock of materials that you don’t need and can’t sell
  • Legal ramifications
  • Costly repairs

Recovery from counterfeit cables can mean anything from simply exchanging the bad cables for good cables in your devices, or paying for damages caused by the fraudulent material.

What are Common Counterfeit Cable Scams?

One of the most common and dangerous counterfeit cable scams is that of Copper-Clad Aluminum (CCA). This cable has an aluminum center wrapped in copper. Manufacturers can buy it for cheap but the seller may not always admit that the cable is not pure copper. Most often the problem of copper wire and CCA is found in houses and other buildings, as well as for communication assemblies.

Note: CCA is considered non-standard, but that does not mean it is obsolete in the cable industry. CCA could work in certain situations. Consult the cable’s specifications to be certain.

Another well-known counterfeit cable scam is changing the UL or ETL labels. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek Testing Services (ETL) are companies that provide labels certifying that a product is from a real company and will perform as promised. Less honest companies may try to counterfeit the UL or ETL label in an attempt to get people to purchase their product. If you purchase cables with a UL or ETL label that appears different from those you are used to, check for other counterfeit features such as those listed below.

Note: UL and ETL labels are only two of many labels that verify authenticity. If your cable contains other industry standard labels, you should research them to learn if they are trustworthy.

How are Counterfeit Cables identified?

  • Labels: Keep an eye out for inconsistent labels. You might notice conflicting information on different labels, or changes in wording or design.
  • Price: Counterfeit cables are often sold well below the average price. You may come across an unbelievably good deal that could save your company hundreds of dollars. It is likely these cables are counterfeit and buying them will cause problems that could cost your company more in the end. More often it is better to pay a little bit more for cables you know are legitimate and avoid the risk of winding up with counterfeit parts.
  • Materials: Many victims of counterfeit cable scams describe discovering the counterfeit state of the cables because the materials felt wrong. The wire bent too easily, felt brittle, or weighed less. Upon further inspection the cable is found out to be made of materials other than those described by the seller.
  • Source: When shopping online for cables and components, stick with reputable sellers. Stay away from websites that are unfamiliar. If you are unsure of a company’s standing, research the company to find out if they have been reported for selling counterfeit cables.

What Should I do about Counterfeit Cables?

Counterfeit cables are not a new issue in the cable and harness industry. Many businesses have encountered counterfeit parts as they build cable and harness assemblies. Even at Cirris Systems, we once bought parts to install in our products only to discover that the purchased parts were counterfeit. We were able to replace the bad parts with functional and genuine alternatives before any damage occurred.

If you discover you’ve become tangled in counterfeit cables, do your best to undo any problems caused by the mistake. Replace the counterfeit parts and repair any damage. Counterfeit cables don’t have to turn into a catastrophe for your business. As long as you pay attention and make wise decisions, counterfeit cables may never become a threat to you.

Sources and Further Reading:

http://www.connectorsupplier.com/how-to-identify-counterfeit-cabling-in-healthcare-facilities/

http://www.cableorganizer.com/articles/how-to-identify-counterfeit-ul-mark.html

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141014170355-29333252-with-an-expanding-counterfeit-wire-industry-designing-failsafes-into-your-products-is-increasingly-important

http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/SectionDisplay.jsp?section=65645&minisite=10251#story1

http://www.cccassoc.org/topics/anti-counterfeit/anti-counterfeit-press-releases/case-study-ny-contractors-encounter-counterfeit-cable/

http://www.cccassoc.org/news/press-releases/ccca-cites-actual-case-encounter-counterfeit-cable-certification/

http://www.flukenetworks.com/doc_links_pdf/en/content/application-note-copper-clad-aluminum-cables