Buy Cheap, Buy Twice – The Ticking Time Bomb Market


Counterfeit components are a huge threat to electronic supply chains globally, including the customers themselves. The counterfeit market is growing year on year which effects authorised manufacturers producing the legit components as many people love a bargain and believe they are getting a good deal on their components. However, little do they know that counterfeit parts frequently create product malfunctions leading to unnecessary danger. In recent years it has become necessary for distributors and manufacturers to inspect incoming electronic components to ensure they are authentic and will not cause any potential disruption in their products down the line.

The electronics industry has developed some of the most ground-breaking creations in human history. Some of which was the first television in 1927 by Philo Farnsworth, the first relay invented by Joseph Henry in 1935 and finally the first calculator which was invented in 1967 by Merryman. However, despite impressive high-tech minds, no one has been able to overcome the industry’s most deceptive challenge: the counterfeit market (AKA, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ market).

Why Do People Create Counterfeit Components?

Many manufactures create counterfeit electronics purely for a higher profit margin. According to US Today, a California man tried to import fake computers, which would have been worth $2.6 million if genuine. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison. This is one of hundreds of cases whereby people have tried to smuggle counterfeit items to sell and make large profit margins.

The Ticking Time Bomb Market

According to Fact-UK.org.uk, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) reported that international trade in counterfeit and pirated products is now worth up to €338 billion (approx. £300 billion) and with this increasing demand for everything to be online, brands, businesses and consumers are now finding the digital world flooded with fake goods. Not only this, stated by cscglobal.com, it is estimated that one in ten IT products sold worldwide are counterfeit. Not only is this potentially damaging to reputable manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung, it can also be detrimental to the customer itself.

Counterfeit components can potentially be very dangerous. However big the electronic device is, small incorrect parts can break a device in seconds. If certain parts of a device break or do not perform as expected, they can cause safety and product performance issues. For example, counterfeit components could lead to short circuits which may cause a fire. Counterfeit components may cause a device to perform incorrectly and could injure someone. Counterfeit components are lower quality compared authentic versions which almost guarantees that the device would not perform up to standard. For many different sectors such as aerospace, manufacturing, military, and medical, high performing electronics is very important to ensure safety and accurate results. In these industries, if a device malfunctions due to a counterfeit part, the consequences could be deadly. Counterfeit electronics are dangerous for many industries, one being aerospace. Any fault in the system of a plane formed from a counterfeit part could potentially cause the plane to lose control which could put the crew and pilot in danger.

What Can I Do to Avoid Counterfeit Components?

Many companies invest in anti-counterfeiting packaging which ensures that their products are legit. The global market for anti-counterfeiting, brand protection and security packaging will reach $3.09 billion in 2019, according to a report from Smithers Pira. It is always a good idea to look out for security authorised packaging when buying electronic components, to ensure they are legit. I would also recommend purchasing your parts directly through the original component manufacturer or a reputable manufacturer. As this is where the parts are originally made, it is unlikely that someone has tampered or cloned them. It is possible to spot counterfeit components just by looking at it. If there is misspelling or incorrect labelling of the component, then it is likely that it is counterfeit. As well as this, you can check that the date codes and parts on the labels match with the part itself. Most of the time, you will be able to instantly see whether an electronic component is fake just by the appearance. Same as buying counterfeit bags and jewellery, most of the time it is relatively clear.

By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at eBOM.com


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