If someone is harmed or property is damaged due to faulty electrical products that you supplied or installed, you could be held liable for the damages, even though it might not be your fault to begin with.
While very few electrical professionals would deliberately supply or install sub-standard electrical systems, anyone could inadvertently do it when they handle counterfeit electrical accessories.
All electrical professionals should be conscious of the law of ‘subrogation’, which enables insurance companies to recoup money they have paid out on insurance claims from other parties who can be identified as being partially or fully responsible for the cause of the claim. So if you knowingly or unknowingly supply, install or specify counterfeit electrical goods that are found to have contributed to an insurance claim (e.g. fire or electrocution) because of being sub-standard or unsafe, you could be held liable for personal damages and possibly face imprisonment.
Counterfeits are everywhere
When people think about counterfeit goods, what typically comes to mind are fake Rolex watches and Gucci handbags. Few people are aware of the proliferation of counterfeit electrical products.
According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 30-40% of the estimated $1 billion in counterfeit products that enter the US each year are electrical products. Globally, electrical products rank second highest, totalling 13% of all counterfeit goods seized.
We’re not immune to it in Australia, with thousands of non-compliant GPOs, lights, cables, RCDs, etc coming into our market every year through unscrupulous importers. In 2010, an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) campaign uncovered 311 non-compliant electrical products being sold by various retailers across Sydney, including lamps and lighting products. And in 2006, the OFT uncovered a large number of counterfeit HPM-branded GPOs in the marketplace. Not only were these fakes found to be of poor quality, they were also grossly unsafe, with the switch mechanisms breaking down with minimal use, rendering them dangerous to users over time. The OFT successfully charged the importer and issued warnings to consumers and the electrical industry on how to avoid being caught out by these counterfeit products.
While such actions are admirable, their effectiveness is limited. Sadly a great number of counterfeit electrical goods still end up installed in homes and businesses around the country. The electrical industry itself – electrical wholesalers, retailers, contractors, electricians and consultants – needs to be particularly vigilant against them.
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