The Risks of Sourcing Electrical Products Online

How much do you really know about the electrical products you’re buying online?

You’re in a pinch. You need a molded case circuit breaker (MCCB) for a project, but you’re running up against a deadline and you don’t think you have time to order through a distributor. So, naturally, you jump online and look for a reseller who can offer you a low-priced option with fast turnaround. You find product that looks like a good choice. Sure, it’s being sold as unused surplus product, but that doesn’t matter – it should work as well as a new one. Finally, you place your order using next-day shipping (of course) and in less than 24 hours the product shows up at your door ready to be installed. No problem, right?

Not so fast.

Online buying carries significant risks for contractors that could lead to big problems if you’re not careful, including receiving products that are suspect, unsafely altered, or even counterfeit. In this article, I’ll explore some of those risks, while offering tips for avoiding the potential pitfalls of online buying. Because while buying from online sources may seem convenient, it’s critical to not put your customers or your business at risk by taking shortcuts.

ONLINE BUYING IS FAST, CHEAP, AND CONVENIENT. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

At first, buying from internet resellers can seem incredibly convenient. The competition between online resellers has led to a crowded marketplace, with many promising prices far below those offered through authorized channels. And the speed of two day or one-day shipping often seems like it’s too good to be true for contractors who need product fast.

There are a number of problems with buying from these online sources to be concerned about, but the big one is the risk of the unknown.

When you purchase products from a gray market source you simply don’t know what you’re getting or where the products originated. Unless the seller has a direct relationship with the original manufacturer, the products that they sell should not be considered new. Without the assurance of traceability to the manufacturer, these products create liability for the contractor who installs them. In the worst-case scenario, the product can pose serious safety risks, including fires or other electrical hazards that can lead to liabilities for the contractor.

Fortunately, ensuring the authenticity of MCCBs you buy online can be accomplished if you follow a few simple steps.

TRUST, BUT VERIFY

Online buying doesn’t have to be fraught with risk. Taking the necessary precautions to ensure the authenticity of the products will go a long way toward maintaining the safety and integrity of your project.

LOOK FOR TRACEABILITY TO THE ORIGINAL MANUFACTURER 

First, it’s essential to verify that the products you are purchasing online can be traced to the original manufacturer. Check with the manufacturer in question that the reseller has been authorized to sell the product, or take the necessary steps to find out from the reseller where they procure the products they sell. This may seem to defeat the purpose of buying online – after all, you’re looking for a fast turnaround – but doing your due diligence is the only way you’ll know you’re getting genuine product before it reaches your door.

Thankfully, the electrical industry is aware of the problems of counterfeiting and gray market resellers, and it continues to take steps to make it easier than ever