Counterfeit electrical products: Fakes can be a dangerous waste of money

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We're all looking to pinch a few pennies wherever we can these days, but experts says trying to save a few dollars on things like batteries and extension cords could bring sub-par products into your home and put your life at risk.

Even with all the bells and whistles, a smokin' hot laptop is not supposed to look like this, smoldering until it finally explodes. This is the typical cell phone battery. But when it doesn't actually fit your phone... Boom! Your flip phone is ready to self-destruct. These are extreme cases, but very real possibilities when you end up with counterfeit electrical products.

"You're gonna get what you pay for," said Manager of Battery Plus, Tony Honeycutt.

Battery expert Tony Honeycutt says if you seek out batteries at bargain stores or online and they're unlabeled or repackaged or just obviously not new, especially for something like a laptop, you're setting yourself up.

"Batteries from us might be $150 and a battery from the internet might be $50. So, somebody saves I'll save $100 and get this one. They come in and they've got a battery that's junk," Tony said.

Beyond costing you money in the long run, mystery batteries can be dangerous too. This battery split the circuit board in a cell phone. Most any battery for a cell phone, camera or other device poses a big risk if it's not exactly the right fit.

"Lithium batteries are explosive when they react with air. So any type of a puncture or overcharge on it to a certain degree will cause it to spontaneously combust," said Tony.

"They are almost always substandard. They do not live up to the same quality that the genuine brand manufacturer produced to," said Clark Silcox, National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

90-percent of the counterfeit electrical products coming into the US are from China Silcox says and the makers aren't aware of American industry standards, they're just trying to make a cheap product. Take this simple extension cord for example, about $4.00, but the maker skimped on the copper inside. It should be 12 to 16 gauge wire; instead that number's in the 20's.

"A 22-wire gauge conductor is not capable of carrying the current. It will start overheating immediately and catch fire," said Silcox.

Silcox says from batteries to circuit breakers to power strip, look for labeling that identifies manufacturers and doesn't have spelling mistakes or bad grammar. Buy from a reputable retailer that you can easily track down if needed.

"Our best advice is to buy that extra ounce of safety and pay a few extra dollars for it that you can count on, products that'll be reliable," Silcox said.

What's worse with these counterfeits products is that if something goes wrong - like an accident or it just doesn't - there's often no one you can hold liable. So, you've either lost your money or in the case of something that explodes, your home.

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