Apple has issued an advisory on its Chinese website warning customers not to purchase unauthorized third-party chargers, which may have been involved in two recent electrocution incidents. Earlier this month, it was reported that a 23-year-old woman in China had died after receiving a shock when she answered her iPhone 4 while it was charging. In the second incident, a Chinese man ended up in a coma after being shocked while using an unauthorized charger for an iPhone 4.
Third-party accessories are particularly attractive to consumers because they’re usually sold at a lower price than those made by electronics manufacturers. Many of them look strikingly similar to the genuine manufacturers’ products. Apple’s consumer warning even shows customers how to distinguish a real Apple charger from a knock-off. The company has promised a full investigation into both incidents.
Counterfeit goods often carry serious safety and health risks. In an earlier T+B post, “IP Issues in the Pharmaceutical Industry,” we cited a World Health Organization estimate that one-quarter of drugs in poor countries around the world are either counterfeit or substandard. These counterfeit and often mislabeled drugs can result in fatalities. Products in the pesticide market, where at least 25% of the goods sold in Europe have been estimated to be counterfeit, can also be lethal to consumers.
We’re now surrounded by counterfeit products in everyday life, from counterfeit airbags to a recent case of counterfeit safety certification labels on lamps imported from China. ICANN has even taken the message about the dangers of counterfeit products to teenagers with its Unreal Campaign, which educates them about counterfeiting issues and their harmful impact on society and public health.
With attention on the dangers of counterfeit products growing around the world, it should come as no surprise when we tell you there’s now a mobile app to report them. Called uFaker, it allows you to upload a photo of a suspected counterfeit product along with information about where you found it. That information is then forwarded on to the brand owner to investigate. That’s counterfeit hunting 21st century-style.
Have you experienced any safety issues with a counterfeit product?