Wiring Matters 50 - March 2014
The counterfeit issue: interview with Mark Coles
Mark Coles is the Technical Regulations Manager at the IET. He oversees the publication of BS 7671 and all of the related IET’s guidance material.
The IET has recently been alerted to a number of counterfeit publications; Mark tells Wiring Matters all about it.
Which publications are being forged?
We have been alarmed to discover that BS 7671, the On-Site Guide and Guidance Note 3 Inspection and Testing have been illegally copied. The books we’ve seen range in production quality but all have technical errors.
How did the IET become aware of this?
The first alert came in the form of a call from Kent Trading Standards. A consignment of 845 counterfeit copies of the IET Wiring Regulations BS 7671:2008(2011) was intercepted by staff from the UK Border Agency at the Port of Dover as it made its way to the UK from Latvia.
Following that, we have had a steady stream of people contacting the IET by phone, email and letter who have bought copies of the On-Site Guide and tell us that “it looks different to my friend’s copy” or “this table has information on 35 mm conduit.”
Are any specific channels (for example, certain websites such as Amazon, etc) being used?
It seems to be unregulated routes to market, by that I mean those channels which allow anyone to sell anything, examples being eBay and Amazon Marketplace. That is not to say that people should not generally buy products from those websites.
What is the scale of the problem – how many publications are involved?
At the moment it’s impossible to quantify. We had hoped that with the seizure of the counterfeit copies of BS 7671 at Dover there would be no more fake copies on the market but we have been sent copies of BS 7671 with the same printing errors as those found in the books from the Dover haul, so, counterfeit copies of BS 7671:2008(2011) are out there and are being offered for sale.
What are the risks attached to the fake copies?
There are a number of risks but the principal risk is that of the safety of the user of the electrical installation.
There are some cable sizes given in the counterfeit On-Site Guide that are far higher than those stated in the genuine version. Should an installer follow the guidance in the counterfeit book, they would be seriously undersizing a cable, which could lead to overheating and even fire.
Conversely, in a counterfeit version of BS 7671:2008(2011) we have obtained, Table 4D1A states that the current-carrying-capacity of a cable is 26 amps, whilst the genuine version of the book gives this value as 36 amps. In this case, an oversized cable would be chosen, which is not a safety issue but certainly increases the cost of the installation.
Buyers may think that they are getting a bargain by purchasing a counterfeit copy of an IET publication, however, in such cases where pages are missing or printed information has been corrupted, the picture is not complete which could lead to errors and dangerous practices.
In short, producing and purchasing of fake publications is compromising the safety of the electrical industry and is putting people at risk of fire, serious injury or even death.
From our perspective at the IET, we are a charity that prides ourselves on reinvesting profits into developing new publications and disseminating vital industry information. Lost revenue means a lower level of reinvestment going back into publications and supporting the industry at large.
Who is most at risk?
To actually quantify it, the person most at risk is the homeowner.
Are there any ways we can recognise a fake copy?
There are examples as stated earlier but it’s becoming increasingly hard. Technology is making it easier to copy and replicate publications but what appears to be the major failing is the optical character recognition stage in the scanning process. This is where, for example, the scanning software interprets an eight as a zero, or a six as a five.
[Editor’s note: we’ve included images of errors in books and also showcase errors in our video.]
What is the IET doing about getting these books taken out of circulation, or shutting down retailers?
The IET has instructed its solicitor to issue cease and desist orders to sellers of counterfeit products and will pursue those who ignore the instruction.
What is the IET doing about preventing more of this happening in future?
We are currently looking at methods of hallmarking printed publications to make it tougher to duplicate. Anti-copying paper is another method which the publishing industry is using. Similarly, electronic versions of the IET’s products will be encrypted to prohibit copying and watermarks will be automatically included when printing from the IET’s Wiring Regulations Digital platform.
Is the IET also working with other organisations to prevent this occurring?
The IET has been working with the HSE, NICEIC and The Electrical Safety Council to name but a few. The industry recognises as a whole that counterfeit products, be they circuit-breakers or guidance publications, can be incredibly dangerous.
What can the purchaser do to protect themselves and how do they know whether the copy they have bought is genuine?
This, of course, is very difficult. The only true way a purchaser can protect themselves is to buy from an IET preferred seller.
We have also put together some images highlighting the differences between real and counterfeit copies of the IET's On-Site Guide.
In the videos below, Geoff Cronshaw and Mark Coles discuss counterfeit materials - including the dangers that might arise in using counterfeit content and what you can do to avoid purchasing such material.
We interview the student, Jack Day, who first alerted the IET to the problem of counterfeit materials.
Counterfeiting - the IET's policy
The IET are working with worldwide customs authorities and various law enforcement agencies based in countries such as China and India to stop the shipment of counterfeit goods, preventing their sale and distribution.
Please let us know if you see any suspicious looking IET products and we will, where appropriate, take legal action to prevent counterfeiting. We want to protect our customers so we’re working hard to track down websites and online auctions that we believe are selling counterfeit IET products.
Whilst we would like to help the victims of counterfeiting, we're not able to reimburse money used to purchase infringing goods since such goods were not bought from us nor do we assist with the resolution of disputes, including assistance with PayPal or credit card refunds. However, by finding counterfeiters and taking legal action against them, we're doing our part since many people do not understand the global ramifications of counterfeiting, or the cycle of abuse they are supporting when purchasing counterfeit goods. Counterfeiters are criminals who impact on the economy by not paying taxes, and exploit consumers, businesses and their workers alike so any information regarding counterfeiting is extremely valuable to us.
If you have any information on a counterfeit seller of IET products, please contact us. Although we cannot comment on products that are not purchased directly from us or issue letters of authentication, any information about counterfeiting is extremely valuable to us.
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