Brett Smyth, General Manager EMEA of Ideal Industries, the global leader in electrical accessories, tools and equipment, discusses the quality, integrity and safety implications of choosing counterfeit connectors for electrical terminations.


Everyone loves a bargain. In the electrical sector, where margins are often tight, it’s not surprising that contractors look for opportunities to reduce overheads wherever possible by choosing value for money products. And after the tumultuous year we had in 2020, the drive to make cost-effective choices has never been greater.


But there’s a huge difference between value for money and cheap. While, financially, choosing the lowest cost option may seem like the right decision, unbranded consumables could have negative commercial implications that cost much more than the small savings gained from choosing the cheapest option. When it comes to cable connectors, for example, the pennies saved by using unbranded products could result in installation integrity and safety issues, which could affect repeat business and even potentially the contractor’s reputation.


What’s the Difference Between Branded and Unbranded?


If something looks the same as a branded item and does the same job, it must just be the same right? Wrong. But many contractors follow this philosophy when buying electrical consumables, where the savings gained are lowest but the potential pitfalls are just as significant.


Imagine, for a moment, that we are not talking about connectors but about a tool, a mobile phone or a work vehicle, and consider whether you would be willing to swap your 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. 


Now switch back to thinking about connectors: the same principles apply.

The 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 a meticulous research and development process that 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, which has invested in innovative product development, can continue investing in innovation and enabling electrical contractors to access 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 product confidence, and electricians using a branded item like this can be certain it 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 Products


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 leverl connectors, reduced quality can compromise the installation in terms of quality, safety and programme delays.


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. 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 be a cause of snagging issues and call backs, which are both costly and damaging to contractors’ reputations. It could also lead to problems with the integrity of the electrical network and potential safety hazards.


It Pays to Make the Right Choices


It’s been a tough commercial climate for all aspects of the electrical delivery chain over the past few months and saving money where possible has been key to commercial resilience. Sometimes, however, it pays to invest in quality rather than cutting corners. 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. 


At Ideal, we aim to offer value for money, competitive pricing on everything, but if you choose a product because it’s cheaper than a brand you trust, you’ll get a cheap product.