April 2013 Electrical Apparatus

April 2013 Electrical Apparatus

This is a summary of the Electrical Apparatus March 2013 featured technical article,  by Richard L. Nailen, P.E.    Receive this article with your subscription to Electrical Apparatus

By 2011, a thousand or more discoveries of counterfeit electrical and electronic products were being reported annually in the worldwide market, involving millions of devices and components. In the U.S. alone, seizures of counterfeit goods rose 24% from 2011 to 2012, and more than 300% since 2002.

One estimate is that more than 10% of global trade is in such products, including electrical equipment valued at 2.4 billion euros. In the U.K., imports of such goods total 30 million pounds sterling or more annually, 90% of it originating in China. Earlier, a year-long series of investigations by police and customs officials in 13 South American countries led to seizure of eight million counterfeit products and the arrest of 1,000 suspects.

Among the counterfeits most often seized in 2011: circuit breakers containing only an on-off switch; capacitors and batteries that leak or explode; poorly performing lookalike cell phones; and power cords containing undersized wire.

In the U.S., a 2011 Senate investigation disclosed that more than a million fake electronic parts had been found in U.S. weapons systems, three-fourths of them from Chinese manufacturers. Consequent legislative changes imposed new penalties and procurement practices.

The problem is not confined to the Americas or Europe. African, Asian, and Middle East nations are also being victimized. In response, 43 countries joined July-September 2011 in “Operation Short Circuit” to seize 388 shipments of counterfeit electrical goods, including thousands of boxes of lamps, surge protectors, cords, power supplies, and batteries. A thousand pages of counterfeit product advertisements were pulled from the Internet.

The Chinese government has become involved. One raid on a suspected factory netted half a million circuit breakers and wiring accessories. Counterfeit bearings were seized in another raid. But China is filled with small entrepreneurs; government regulations are lax and enforcement weak. And firms outside China are also entering the market. As labeling and marking technology becomes more sophisticated, counterfeiters find better ways to disguise their work.

Cooperative international response continues to expand. Yet while symposiums, conferences, publications, and programs multiply to focus the attention of distributors and users on counterfeit detection, unreliable and sometimes dangerous products continue to flood the market.

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