A report by the European Commission once revealed that the total value of counterfeit goods detained in the EU during 2015 was €642 million.
That huge figure neatly illustrates how big an issue this is, but counterfeiting in the electrical goods sector remains a particularly troubling problem.
iPhone chargers are a classic example. They can be made in China for as little as 3p and bought on the internet for under £1. Unfortunately, due to poor construction and zero compliance with modern regulations, such devices are liable to overheating and consequently causing significant harm to their owners.
Branded iPhone chargers pose a much lower risk, because they’re designed specially for each device, but the price of counterfeit goods and the deceiving ways in which they’re marketed and packaged is enough for many people and businesses to opt for the cheaper version.
With that in mind, what measures can be taken to combat this potentially lethal threat?
Not to labour the point, but much of the vigilance against counterfeit goods should come from good, old-fashioned common sense.
Generally speaking, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, but we can all rely on the following tactics when purchasing electrical goods for the home or business:
- Only buy from reputable suppliers
- Check all packaging and labelling on delivery; does it look suspicious or as though it has been tampered with?
- Check online reviews before purchasing – previous buyers may indicate if goods are possibly counterfeit
- Go on gut instinct; even the ‘feel’ of an item can indicate that something isn’t quite right
Education and PAT testing
When it comes to business, it’s vital that staff are properly educated and trained in what it takes to identify counterfeit goods.
Equally, regular and efficient PAT testing (Portable Appliance Testing) should be carried out and will help you weed out suspect devices.
The most common devices that are targeted by criminals should also be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Most commonly, these will be the aforementioned accessories such as smartphone chargers, but also higher ticket items including smartphones themselves and other expensive business equipment.
The technical giveaways
A counterfeit good might look entirely unsuspicious to the untrained eye, but to an experienced electrical engineer, the differences stand out a country mile.
Quite often, comprehensive electrical testing will reveal suspect devices for what they are, with polarity checks, non-standard cable points and overloading of sockets the most common areas of inspection.
If you’re unsure, leave it to the experts!
How to address safety surrounding counterfeit appliances
To protect the workforce from the dangers of counterfeit goods, businesses should adopt a safety-first culture.
This can be fostered by regularly scheduling maintenance and inspection of all electrical goods and ensuring the results are published for all to see.
In-house or external practical electrical training is also worth investigating, which, combined with experienced PAT testing will provide a far more robust approach to risk assessment and raise awareness potentially dangerous goods.
Counterfeit goods are unfortunately going nowhere – they’ll forever be a hazard, but as the criminals get more sophisticated in their approach, your business can use the above tactics to became far more vigilant (and safe!).