Bang On: Watch out for counterfeit and other substandard products

Familiar with the saying “you get what you pay for”? Or “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”?

When you begin planning your new home purchase or home renovation, you quickly discover the marketplace offers an astounding array of products with an even more astounding array of prices.

With so much to choose from, how do you get the best value for your money and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have made wise, informed decisions?

Product selection often begins with appearance and price: how will it look in your home and how much are you willing to pay? Beyond that, other aspects need careful thought: overall quality, reliability, durability, ease of installation, warranty and after-sales service.

Not all products are the same, and in some cases, they may not be what they seem. The majority of building products and materials meet standards for safety, health, performance etc. Some standards are mandatory according to building codes; others are used by manufacturers as a benchmark for quality.

However, recent years have seen an increase in counterfeit and nonconforming consumer products of all kinds, especially with today’s access to purchases online. While there is no evidence of a large-scale problem with building products, it is still prudent for consumers to be on guard against unsafe or substandard products, which can show up as:

  • counterfeit or fake brand name products
  • products with fake certification symbols, that is, fraudulent use of marks belonging to standards organizations such as Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Underwriters Laboratories Canada (ULC) and Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)
  • nonconforming products, that is, those that do not meet accepted industry standards
  • no-name or knock-off products without any indication of performance, durability or warranty. Untested and uncertified, these products can, in the extreme, pose a serious safety risk. Less dramatically, they may simply be substandard — not dangerous, but not performing as they should.

As a homebuyer or renovating homeowner, what can you do to safeguard against counterfeit and nonconforming products?

One of the most effective ways is to work with an experienced and respectable industry professional. Reputable new home builders and renovators:

  • give careful thought to the best products based on cost, installation, quality, performance, durability, warranty and compliance with codes and standards
  • rely on brand-name products and suppliers and sub-trades they can trust
  • depend on approval marks or listing numbers by standards and evaluation organizations, for example, CSA, ULC and CGSB, to identify products that have been tested against required criteria for safety and performance
  • offer a warranty on their work, and many of the products they use are covered by manufacturers’ warranties, which are transferred to you, the homeowner
  • take a firm stance on not allowing products to be brought in that have not come through their network of trusted suppliers.

However, if you are doing your own work, here are a few pointers to help avoid disappointment and problems from the purchase of a counterfeit product:

  • Buy brands by reputable manufacturers
  • Shop in dependable building supply stores where you can exchange or replace a defective product
  • With Internet purchases, make sure you understand what you are getting, for example, check country of origin and distributor, installation and performance data, maintenance information, warranty and access to service
  • Be skeptical if a price is too good to be true or if you are asked to pay cash with no receipt
  • Be careful if you can’t find information about the manufacturer on the packaging or product. Manufacturers normally want you to know who they are, including name, address and website.
  • Check the product and packaging for a shoddy appearance or approval mark or misspelled words, which may be evidence of a fake
  • Visit the websites of standards organizations such as CSA, ULC and CGSB to check the legitimacy of approval or for product recalls and warnings
  • Report suspicions right away to the appropriate standards organization, the retailer or the supplier.

STANDARDS ORGANIZATIONS

Canadian Standards Association: www.csa-international.org

Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada: www.ulc.ca

Canadian General Standards Board: www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/index-eng.html

Canadian Construction Materials Centrewww.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/solutions/advisory/ccmc_index.html

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