Buy Cheap, Buy Twice – The Ticking Time Bomb Market

Counterfeit components are a huge threat to electronic supply chains globally, including the customers themselves. With imports of counterfeit and pirated goods to the UK accounting for £13.6 billion in 2016, the counterfeit market is growing year on year as many people believe they are receiving a good deal on their components. As imagined, this deeply effects authorised manufacturers producing the legit components due to potential customers purchasing the products elsewhere. However, it is a known fact 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.


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, 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, 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, but 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.


How are Counterfeit Parts Detected?

The increasing miniaturisation of electronic products and parts makes visual inspection detection almost impossible. Best practice in terms of robust supplier assessment and management is therefore the first line of defence. This may be supplemented by enhanced inspection using radiography and electrical testing for components received by irregular suppliers.


What Can I Do to Avoid Counterfeit Components?

Many companies invest in anti-counterfeiting packaging which ensures that their products are legitimate. 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.

There are also organisations available for business and industry to tackle the counterfeit industry. The Anti-Counterfeiting Forum is a free service which helps exchange, develop, and disseminate best practice and intelligence to mitigate against the threat of counterfeits in the electronic and electrical supply chains. The ACF has proved greatly successful in challenging the illegal industry since its first anticounterfeiting awareness seminar in 2009. The organisation has almost 1000 global members, along with working closely with a number of industry and Government associations to keep up to date with the latest counterfeiting data. Being actively supported by ECSN,  Astute Electronics and Retronix, they are widely recognised within the electronics industry.


By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at

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