Smart Buildings

A Major Step Forward in Combatting Counterfeit Communications Cables

Ron Tellas

Counterfeit, sub-standard and poor-quality communications cable causes problems that span far beyond poor performance—it can create safety issues, too.


As the voice of the structured cabling industry, CCCA (the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association) works hard to educate professionals about issues vital to the industry and address challenges created by non-compliant, stolen and counterfeit structured cabling components.


As a member of CCCA, Belden plays an active role in supporting the organization’s efforts to modernize consumer protection laws to safeguard businesses, communities, employees and consumers against the harm and damage that non-compliant communications cable can cause.


Recently, through two proposed pieces of legislation, the CCCA has been helping to fight the sales of stolen and counterfeit communications cables on online platforms.


The SHOP SAFE Act (Stopping Harmful Offers in Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-Commerce) would make online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Facebook liable for copyright and trademark infringement in cases where a third party uses the online marketplace’s platform to sell counterfeit goods, such as communications cable, that could harm the consumer’s health or safety.


Included in the SHOP SAFE Act are requirements about:


  • Verifying seller information (address, identity, contact info, etc.)
  • Requiring sellers to agree to not use counterfeit marks with goods sold on the platform
  • Designing and adopting measures to identify potentially counterfeit goods before they’re listed and sold
  • Implementing policies to ban repeat offenders


The second piece of legislation, the INFORM Consumers Act, is a bipartisan act that brings parties together, including law enforcement, manufacturers, retailers and online marketplaces of all sizes, to protect consumers from bad actors who sell counterfeit and stolen goods, such as communications cables.


To make it easier for regulators and investigators to investigate potential fraud, the INFORM Consumers Act requires online marketplaces to:


  • Collect and verify high-volume, third-party sellers’ contact information, bank account details and tax ID number
  • Provide consumers with a way to report suspicious market activity
  • Require sellers of a certain size to disclose their name, contact information and physical address to consumers


While the SHOP SAFE Act is still a work in progress, the INFORM Consumers Act was passed as part of the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which President Biden signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022. It goes into effect in June 2023.


Why Is Education About Counterfeit Cables So Important?


Non-compliant and counterfeit communications cabling products can create significant health and safety risks—not to mention cause damage to critical infrastructure and lead to significant downtime and reliability issues.


While compliant cables are certified for safety and made with proper materials, non-compliant cables can use flammable materials that could spread fire within buildings. When they burn, some non-compliant materials may also produce dangerous smoke.


According to the CCCA, in a study led by UL, 100% of non-certified cables tested had safety issues and failed safety testing.


How to Identify Counterfeit Cables


The best way to ensure safety and performance is to rely on trusted manufacturers and distributors for the communications cabling solutions you need.


If you’re unsure about some of the cabling being used on a project, here are a few warning signs that may indicate counterfeit cabling:


  1. A price that seems too good to be true. According to the CCCA, if you notice significantly lower pricing, beware! This likely means the cables were made with cheaper materials that aren’t safe in the event of a fire.
  2. Purchasing from an online platform. If you purchase cables from an online source, they need to be carefully scrutinized and evaluated for legitimacy.
  3. Incorrect or no labeling. Compliant cables are labeled with the cable performance type, safety certification, manufacturer name, country of origin, etc. A counterfeit cable often lacks labeling or doesn’t feature all this information.
  4. Very lightweight packaging. If a box or reel feels curiously lightweight, it’s likely because the cable manufacturer used copper clad aluminum (CCA), which shouldn’t be used to manufacture communications cable and cannot achieve third-party certification. Per ANSI/TIA-568.2, copper clad aluminum shall not be used.
  5. No safety certification. A label from an OSHA-authorized Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), such as UL or ETL, is evidence that the communications cable is certified for safety. If a cable isn’t certified by a third party, it does not comply with the NEC and cannot be installed.


It’s important to note: If a low-voltage installer installs non-compliant cable, they may be liable for damages caused by the cable installation.


If you want to learn more about the problems with counterfeit cables or about CCCA’s efforts to protect the structured cabling industry, we’re happy to answer your questions.


Related Links:


Which Rating or Certification Does Your Cable Really Need?

Protect Yourself—Counterfeit Cable & Connectivity

Not in My Network! Copper Clad Aluminum is a Recipe for Failure