6 Tips to Avoid a Costly Counterfeit Mistake

2019-03-01  |  8 min read 

Many of us find it difficult to resist the temptation to purchase consumer products on sale at a significant discount even if we don’t need them. We enjoy the satisfaction of getting a great deal even if the consumer gadget or new addition to our wardrobe doesn't exactly impact our quality of life. We don’t need these items, but we enjoy getting a bargain.

We sit in front of our laptops with intense focus, searching for the best price on coffee pods, low-cost auto parts, and even used and discounted signal analyzers. Yes, some people search for used signal analyzers! This overwhelming determination leads us on a mission to find the best deal on everything from household goods to high-tech electronic test equipment.

Maybe you were fortunate enough to travel to Beijing or Shanghai and found yourself in intense negotiation over a t-shirt, or a watch you knew was a copy due to its ridiculously low price. You knew it was risky to buy a counterfeit product, but you took the risk anyway, only to be disappointed when it broke in the parking lot on the way to your car.

According to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018, global counterfeiting has reached $1.2 trillion in 2017 and is bound to reach $1.82 trillion by 2020. Let’s face it; it is easy to hide counterfeit products on the internet. Shady websites have given way to mainstream resellers carrying all manner of goods. It’s not easy to know if the retailer is selling the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) certified gear.

When we get into that high-gear shopping mode, we are often on a mission to get the best deal possible. We are willing to take more risks to get the prize. We feel the adrenaline rush of closing a great deal. Maybe the adrenaline masks our thinking about the consequences when the product breaks or we need support.

I have first-hand experience with the risks associated with buying a non-certified or non-original product. I unwittingly bought counterfeit coffee pods at a reasonable price. However, the pods were manufactured by a third-party supplier that did not build them to the specified dimensions. The pods jammed my espresso machine, causing damage. To make matters worse, I wasn’t even able to get a refund on the pods. Instead, the supplier told me it “doesn’t guarantee its pods will fit every machine.”

Consumer product companies deal with this issue on a much larger scale than a business-to-business company such as Keysight Technologies. However, Keysight encounters customers who purchase products that were either built or repaired using salvaged or counterfeit parts.

Great deals often satisfy our impulse in the short-term, but buyer beware. If you don’t do your homework, these seemingly great bargains can have dire consequences. For example, a high-end piece of test equipment that doesn’t live up to its specifications can result in a defective design that could create risk for your company and your customers.

If you are in the market for electronic test equipment, you do not want to make a costly mistake. These six tips will help you ensure you’re getting the real deal when you buy test and measurement equipment.

1. Verify the reseller is a certified third-party authorized by the manufacturer.

Ask the reseller for documents to prove they are an authorized third-party for the OEM. It’s important to know that the product is associated in some way with the OEM. You could buy confidently if the product is refurbished by the original manufacturer or a certified dealer, repaired with certified replacement parts, and tested to verify the published specifications.

2. Ask for a calibration certificate and repair history.

A reputable reseller should be able to pull the repair history and calibration history of the instrument. A product that has been altered with counterfeit parts will fail to have traceable repair and calibration history. If the vendor cannot provide this history, buyer beware. 

3. Insist on calibration with your purchase.  

Many large suppliers offer in-house calibration services or will use a third-party calibration service to ensure your purchased product meets OEM specifications. Remember, regardless of traceability, an uncalibrated instrument can present a real risk to your company, your design, and even your customers. If the supplier doesn’t offer a clear answer about how it tests and calibrates its products and whether it provides a certificate of calibration, it’s wise to find another supplier. 

4. Ask for a support contract quote.

If the seller can’t offer a support contract, then you should be concerned about their ability to guarantee the performance of the instrument or to repair it.

5. Buy an extended warranty.

Buying a used product with an extended warranty gives you the confidence that the extended warranty covers a potentially costly repair. The only way to ensure the product has an extended warranty is to contact the original manufacturer. 

6. Register your product.

Once you’ve purchased confidently from a reputable source, register your product. Registering your product is the single easiest way to ensure the product is OEM certified and gives you access to important support information, proactive notification of hardware and software updates, and access to an extensive knowledge base of helpful support information.

Know Your Seller

Recognizing an instrument is counterfeit is very difficult to spot without detailed knowledge of the internal components. We’ve documented instances where products contained counterfeit parts with results not discernable to the untrained eye.

While rare, Keysight has had requests to service or calibrate restored instruments that contained counterfeit parts, or obvious tampering. In these cases, the customer was shocked to learn that the product contained untraceable instrument serial numbers, and there was no way we could calibrate or repair their instruments. The owners quickly realized they made a costly mistake. The best way to avoid this situation is to always buy new or used products from Keysight or a certified partner. 

Learn more about Keysight Premium Used products here.

Learn more about KeysightCare and how to register your Keysight product here.