CPSC says to stop buying suicide cords...

VirutalElectrician

Senior Member
Location
Mpls, MN
I had a slow afternoon about a week ago. So I started searching Amazon for a few unique things I need. One was a color changing can light inserts, another was pop-up counter top outlets.

Amazon is usually a fine place to go to find new and unique gizmos. But boy, what a crap shoot.

Most of the electrical crap on there is neither UL or ETL listed. And it's very hard to find the stuff that is. They do have a button to only list UL stuff, but there isn't one for ETL, which seems to be what most off-shore (ie, China) manufacturers are using now.

Most of the products that are ETL listed, the manufacturer will prominently state that in their product listing. So you have to search the product listing of everything you're looking at to determine it's listing status.

For products that don't mention it, you'll often see in the Q&A section someone specifically asking, and you'll usually get some idiot answering: "I think it is." Gee, buddy thanks for that.

You can't even search for "ETL color changing can lights" as Amazon will just through everything it can at you, just to try and get your money.

It gets even worse when you start looking for pop-up outlets. There's some really nice looking motorized units, but not a single one was listed. Yet, the product image prominently shows it being used in a counter, and in the background there's a kitchen. Nicely trying to visualize it's use as a kitchen pop-up. Yet somewhere way down in the description they'll tell you it's not water proof, and to not use it in a kitchen or wet area....So then why does your picture show it with a kitchen in the background?

One vendor had some really nice looking outdoor patio lights, but again, no NRTL listing.

I tried emailing some vendors and asking if their products were UL or ETL listed. I mostly received no response. A couple responded "I don't understand the question, but our product great, so you buy and leave good review!" Some tried to tell me their product had passed "stringent" testing without actually answering my question.

All in all, it was very frustrating....I did eventually find a few ETL listed can lights, but the reviews were mixed about whether or not the WiFi piece actually worked or not.

The only pop-up outlet I could find that was UL listed was the Hubbell/Bryant that actually met the UL requirements for water exposure in a kitchen area. I ordered one to look at, it came the other day, and it's really well made. Heavy little sucker for it's size. But most Hubbell stuff is pretty decent.

So what does all that have to do with suicide cords? Well, coincidently, a couple days later my news feed pops up an article from the CPSC instructing people to quit buying suicide cords off of Amazon....https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-...on-Fire-and-Carbon-Monoxide-Poisoning-Hazards

I thought it quite timely anyways. I wish they would go after some of the other questionable crap Amazon sells.

I know Amazon has been fighting many law suits, one of them over batteries in Hover Boards that have caught fire while charging. Amazon claiming they are just the payment collector, and those products are actually sold by other parties, and therefore they have no legal product liability. The courts have mostly seemed to not buy it and hold Amazon responsible anyways.

OK, enough rambling...
 

Todd0x1

Senior Member
Location
CA
Not just amazon. There is a european lighitng place with a USA division with a USA website and USA warehouse -nothing is listed. I inquired if listed product was available because they had a fixture we wanted to use on a project and they tried telling me its CE listed which is the same thing. lol.
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
In general, you get what you pay for. Items from online places are sometimes cheaper because the manufacturer has avoided the costs associated with building a product to a product standard and having that product tested and listed to the product standard. Sometimes you will find fake listing labels on "cheap" products.

Even where you find a listed product, you have to know exactly what standard that product has been listed to. There are cases where only one part of a product is listed, but not the complete assembly. Often only the power supply cord. In the case of some pop-up receptacles that say they are listed for use in kitchen counters, only the receptacle itself is listed, but not the complete assembly as required in 406.5(E).

The UL listed products typically have an "E" number where you can look up exactly what standard the item is listed to, but I don't think any of the other listing agencies have anything easy to use like the "E" number.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
I know Amazon has been fighting many law suits, one of them over batteries in Hover Boards that have caught fire while charging. Amazon claiming they are just the payment collector, and those products are actually sold by other parties, and therefore they have no legal product liability. The courts have mostly seemed to not buy it and hold Amazon responsible anyways.
Ebay has had a lot better luck than Amazon has had in avoiding product liability issues. That is probably because eBay has nothing to do with the product itself, while Amazon is often warehousing and supplying the product.

Both are full of Chinese fakes and never weres.
 

VirutalElectrician

Senior Member
Location
Mpls, MN
In general, you get what you pay for. Items from online places are sometimes cheaper because the manufacturer has avoided the costs associated with building a product to a product standard and having that product tested and listed to the product standard. Sometimes you will find fake listing labels on "cheap" products.

It's been a long time since I've seen an unlisted product on a store shelf. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough? I know when I was a kid, there used to be lots of Christmas lights that were not UL listed. My dad, an attorney, who dealt a lot of product liability, refused to buy any that weren't. As I got older and smarter about such things, I learned to spot the differences in quality between listed and unlisted light sets. The unlisted light sets frequently had flimsy sockets, or bare copper wires showing at the base of the socket.
Even where you find a listed product, you have to know exactly what standard that product has been listed to. There are cases where only one part of a product is listed, but not the complete assembly. Often only the power supply cord. In the case of some pop-up receptacles that say they are listed for use in kitchen counters, only the receptacle itself is listed, but not the complete assembly as required in 406.5(E).

I remember the first time I knowningly got snookered by that. I bought a Dremel tool from Harbor Freight. It said UL listed. Took it home, plugged it in and turned it on. I got about 3 slow revolutions out of it before it stopped and the smoke came out in my hand. I looked it over and realized that just the power supply was UL listed. They got around it by making a 12v device and just listed the PS adapter.

Obviously they never even tested the device before shipping it.

It's illegal to sell RF generating devices without an FCC ID. Why isn't it illegal to sell electric devices without a NRTL listing? Not enough fires yet for the home insurance companies to worry about it?

 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
....
It's illegal to sell RF generating devices without an FCC ID. Why isn't it illegal to sell electric devices without a NRTL listing? Not enough fires yet for the home insurance companies to worry about it?
Who would pass and enforce something like that?

In general, if it plugs in, it would be outside the scope of coverage for the NEC, even though the NFPA does not seem to understand that.

The FCC rule has to do with products that could have harmful effects on communications systems, something much broader than the effect of a poor quality product on the owner of that product.
 

drcampbell

Senior Member
Location
The Motor City, Michigan USA
Occupation
Engineer
"CPSC urges consumers not to purchase or sell male-to-male extension cords and to stop using and dispose of these products immediately. Report a dangerous product or a product-related injury on www.SaferProducts.gov ... "
Can't argue with that, though I go one step further and encourage people to render it safe by cutting one end off.

With all the blah-blah-blah about onerous government restrictions and the crying need to get the big bad government off the people's backs, , I'm surprised and disappointed that the CPSC isn't doing more than issuing an advisory.
 

JohnE

Senior Member
Location
Milford, MA
I just bought the same hubbell pop-up receptacles on amazon. My local supplier was out. I was also able to find a Siemens 200 amp meter-main with 6 circuit loadcenter when I couldn't find a meter-main anywhere. That was late July. (I've since got in 10 of them) I also find BR AFI and dual functions on amazon for a lot less than local suppliers, though I haven't bought any.
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
I just bought the same hubbell pop-up receptacles on amazon. My local supplier was out. I was also able to find a Siemens 200 amp meter-main with 6 circuit loadcenter when I couldn't find a meter-main anywhere. That was late July. (I've since got in 10 of them) I also find BR AFI and dual functions on amazon for a lot less than local suppliers, though I haven't bought any.
Breakers are one thing where a there have been fake products or gray market products sold on that source.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
Location
San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
A number of homeowner insurance companies are now including fine print statements or riders that in effect say that if a fire is found to have been caused by a device without an NRTL listing, they can refuse to pay for the damages. Most people don’t know that or understand what it means.

I like to point out that UL stands for Underwrites Laboratory , as in insurance underwriters.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
A number of homeowner insurance companies are now including fine print statements or riders that in effect say that if a fire is found to have been caused by a device without an NRTL listing, they can refuse to pay for the damages. Most people don’t know that.
they can put anything they want to in their policies but what is actually covered is governed by the state insurance laws and rules for the state the policy was issued in.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
Location
San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
they can put anything they want to in their policies but what is actually covered is governed by the state insurance laws and rules for the state the policy was issued in.
True, but the issue has a lot of subtleties. For example one way they sometimes word it in State laws is that insurance must cover events that are “accidental and sudden”. The insurance companies can however say that buying and using an unlisted device is not accidental, that it was a deliberate act.

The safe bet is to only use listed devices. Most brick-and-mortar stores that have a lot to lose and don’t have Bezos Bucks to hire lawyers, rely on listings of products to protect themselves, which indirectly protects the consumers. Amazon IMHO has zero regard for consumers, they just take the money from Chinese and other crap vendors, then rely on their retained lawyers to shift the blame onto the purchaser under the legal precept of “caveat emptor”, or “buyer beware”, meaning it is encumber on the buyer of a product to ensure that it is safe, legal and of good quality. That precept has been basically superseded but product liability and implied warranty laws for the past hundred or more years, but is all but impossible to enforce here against a supplier in a place like China. Amazon is taking advantage of that fact and trying to shield themselves with the claims of just enabling the transaction.

Walmart has started taking this tact too now. We ordered a set of string lights for our patio last spring. The web page said they were UL listed, but what showed up had no label anywhere and immediately tripped the GFCI when I plugged them in. Contacted Walmart.com, they said that this was a private transaction between myself and the Chinese supplier, that they just facilitated it so they bore no responsibility. The Chinese supplier of course does not respond. It was only $30 so my interest in spending a lot of time on this is very low, which is I think part of their strategy. But I’m going to avoid Walmart.com now for sure.
 

tortuga

Code Historian
Location
Oregon
Occupation
Electrical Design
Most of the electrical crap on there is neither UL or ETL listed.
Thats the problem with the recent push to take 'construction specifications' out of the code.
UL, ETL, CE, CSA, UR nobody bothers to know what all these markings mean, and nobody cares to buy thousands of $ worth of a half dozen different standards.
Then there is all the fake markings and marking that don't mean anything, and now we gotta pay UL if we want to look up a marking to see if its fake.
And to top it off listed product instructions that violate code.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
Location
San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
And to top it off listed product instructions that violate code.
Code requires you to follow manufacturers instructions in article 110, superseding basically everything else. So technically, this isn’t true.

Also, you can check a UL listing if a product for free. Any UL listing mark must include a file number, you can look up that file number on UL.con.
 

VirutalElectrician

Senior Member
Location
Mpls, MN
Who would pass and enforce something like that?

In general, if it plugs in, it would be outside the scope of coverage for the NEC, even though the NFPA does not seem to understand that.

The FCC rule has to do with products that could have harmful effects on communications systems, something much broader than the effect of a poor quality product on the owner of that product.
The same people who gave the FCC their power?

The FCC has their own certification process as no other existed.

We already have some NRTL to do the electrical work. The CPSC is already set up as an enforcement agency. Just need to have a law that says the CPSC can come down on you if you don't have an NRTL certification.

I would think some people in high density housing might disagree with your last statement. If JR's hover board starts on fire in a 20 storey high rise apartment building, it would seem to affect more than 1 household.
 

VirutalElectrician

Senior Member
Location
Mpls, MN
I just bought the same hubbell pop-up receptacles on amazon. My local supplier was out. I was also able to find a Siemens 200 amp meter-main with 6 circuit loadcenter when I couldn't find a meter-main anywhere. That was late July. (I've since got in 10 of them) I also find BR AFI and dual functions on amazon for a lot less than local suppliers, though I haven't bought any.
Out in the wildwest of social media, ie, Facebook, I see a lot of electrician bravado of "If I didn't supply it, I ain't installing it!" attitude. Since Covid I've been seeing a lot of "I sent my customer to eBay to buy the $5000 panel they need if they want to move forward sooner." Interesting how lack of supply (and hence not being able to work) changes people's attitudes.
 
Top