Brett Smyth, General Manager EMEA of Ideal Industries, the global leader in electrical accessories, tools and equipment, discusses the quality, integrity, safety and legal implications of choosing counterfeit connectors for electrical terminations.
Cost matters on every site, so, the more small savings a contractor can make on commodity components, the bigger the overall financial benefits for the project, right? Actually, no, not always. If saving money on commodity items involves installing counterfeit items, it can come at a high price and have legal and liability implications, along with consequences for the maintenance, lifecycle and operational costs of the building.
Understanding the Value of the Genuine Article
There is a huge difference between value for money and cheap. When it comes to cable connectors, for example, the cents saved by using unbranded products could result in installation integrity and safety issues, and that’s before we even consider the thorny issue of compliance and liability.
There are strict rules in place across the Middle East region regarding the sale and use of counterfeit goods and the rules are there for good reason. Unbranded ‘fake’ goods have not gone through the rigorous product development and testing process of a branded item so, while they may look the same, they are not the same. Due diligence must be in place to ensure that the goods used are genuine in order for the site and the electrical installation to be compliant. It is the responsibility of the construction consultant and contractor to ensure the supply chain and subcontracted labour adhere to the rules on using genuine, tested products, because this avoids quality and integrity issues that could put the success of the project at risk, or even result in legal action. Genuine Ideal Industries connectors are clearly branded, UL and CE tested and approved, and available only through our approved agents in the region.
While checking that connectors are genuine, branded goods is not difficult, we must also acknowledge that it is easy to be taken in by counterfeit copies. But there is a difference between being taken in, and turning a blind eye. It may seem petty to quibble over whether something as small as a cable connector is branded or unbranded, but let’s imagine, for a moment, that we are not talking about connectors but about a tool, a mobile phone or a work vehicle. Then let’s consider whether we would be willing to swap a branded item for something slightly less expensive and unbranded. For the vast majority of people, the answer would be no. Why? Because they trust the brand and know that they are buying a quality item from a reputable company when they buy branded.
The same principles apply to connectors. The Ideal branded product has not only been the catalyst for a new, faster, easier and more consistent termination method; it has also been designed and tested with Ideal Industries’ meticulous research and development process, which ensures it is fit for purpose, easy to use and provides a robust, durable solution throughout the service life of the installation. That design is protected by a patent, ensuring the company, having invested in innovative product development, can continue investing in innovation and enabling faster, easier and more consistent installation methods.
Ideal Industries is amongst just a handful of brands that has invested in a detailed product development process for push-in and lever connectors, resulting in tested and proven products that are manufactured using quality materials and offer consistent product quality. In-house manufacturing ensures that quality assurance protocols are in place to underpin confidence in the Ideal Industries product range, and using a branded item like this ensures terminations will perform as expected, during installation and beyond.
Conversely, any unbranded, cut price connectors are not only contravening patent law, but are often cheaply produced, without meeting the quality assurance and safety standards embedded in the product development and manufacture of branded products.
The Pitfalls of Using Counterfeit Connectors
So, if the product looks the same and feels the same, what’s the difference between using a branded product and an unbranded one? The answer is, even when it’s a commodity item like push-in or lever connectors, reduced quality can compromise the installation in terms of quality, safety and programme delays.
This is a significant issue in the Middle East market, due to the prominence of unskilled labour. Ideal Industries’ connectors have been designed to provide fast, easy and consistent installation, providing a right-first-time termination, regardless of the skill level of the operative. Lower quality counterfeit components do not have comparable design values or installation performance, which means they could be incorrectly installed and the errors might not be noted until there is a failure or safety issue on the electrical network.
The cheaper materials used in the manufacture of counterfeit goods, poor quality control and lack of testing all mean that product integrity is often an issue too. Counterfeit connectors may break easily when used on site, resulting in rising costs from wastage and increased installation times. As a result, choosing a cheap imitation of innovation that was originally designed by a trusted brand could actually cost contractors more.
Arguably worse than the risk of breakage, is the risk of cracking. A cheap alternative to a branded connector may seem to be performing well enough on site but, because design values and materials are not up to standard, cracking is not uncommon and could go unnoticed. This can lead to problems with the integrity of the electrical network and potential safety hazards. In the harsh climate of the Middle East, ensuring that every item used during an electrical installation has been tested for its suitability and durability in a hot, dry environment is essential. Counterfeit products are often less robust and may perish due to heat, dust and high temperatures. The lack of quality assurance can also contribute to fire risk, both during construction and following completion of the building, which could result in delays and liability issues, or even risk to life.
It Pays to Make the Right Choices
It can be tempting to save costs by sanctioning the use of counterfeit goods, or to turn a blind eye because the cheap alternative looks the same, but those decisions can have significant implications for the smooth delivery of the programme and the quality of the built asset. It pays to be vigilant about quality rather than cutting corners, therefore, even for something as small as an electrical connector. It can be hard to spot counterfeit connectors because they are purposefully manufactured to look like leading brands, but branded products are clearly labelled and packaged so basic checks will reveal whether or not the genuine article is being used.
At Ideal Industries, we aim to offer value for money and competitive pricing on everything. If you choose a product because it’s cheaper than a brand you trust, you’ll get a cheap product, which may not be installed correctly, perform well or comply with legislation banning the use of counterfeit goods.