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One can buy inexpensive wago-style connectors that have the CE Marking but I am doubtful that they are really certified: Valid XHTML.

When purchasing such items, I can ask about certifications (the ebay listing does not mention CE certification). However, when encountering these devices in the field, how might one know if it is safe for use?

To be clear: I have encountered these in the wild. The real Wagos mention ENEC 15 certification.

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    Wow! So there exist, and you think you have encountered, counterfeit WAGO connectors, presumably made in China or elsewhere in the far east? Do you swap them out when you encounter them? Could these be "first generation" genuine WAGOs that have a slightly different appearance? What do WAGO say about this? – Jim Stewart Jun 28 '18 at 10:39
  • CE is not a certification. CE means "Cheap Excrement" because when they lead with the CE mark, it's because they have no certs at all, because they know that no lab on earth would certify it. UL, CSA, TUV, ETL are testing labs. Heck, I would trust an Edna Mode mark because at least she has a testing lab. It's not a high bar. *(Literally, CE is a promise by the manufacturer that they adhere to certain EU safety rules e.g. use of non-lead RoHS solder, so it's a nothingburger). – Harper Jun 28 '18 at 15:13
  • Are there any identifying marks or details of construction that distinguish the suspect connectors from genuine WAGO? – Jim Stewart Jun 28 '18 at 18:21
  • OK, I see the ad does not describe these as WAGO connectors and states they are from China. Presumably this would be patent infringement. – Jim Stewart Jun 28 '18 at 18:50
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Buy from reputable firms

Or to be more precise, don't buy from firms who have workers with apartments in Shenzhen or Hong Kong, because they spend so much time there turning over rocks looking for super cheap suppliers of goods to private-label. That means you can cross off the list:

  • eBay
  • Amazon Marketplace, and possibly "sold by and ships from Amazon" as well
  • Alibaba/AliExpress, obviously
  • The orange Borg
  • The blue Borg
  • The green Borg "11% off"

And we're down to pretty much Grainger, McMaster-Carr, maybe Fastenal though they have some dodgy stuff, and of course, your friendly neighborhood local electrical supply house.

It's the same rule as auto parts. I buy my auto parts at shops which have a fleet of small pickup trucks because they do 90% of their business out the back door to mechanics. Why? Mechanics have to stand behind the work, it's their time, rep and loaner cars at stake. A high failure rate will put them out of business. It'll put me at the side of the road, so our goals align.

Oh, but price!!!

Electrical parts have a very low cost to weight ratio, and that makes them expensive to ship. Another example of such a product is bottled or canned sodas. For those, the distribution model of "mail order to the consumer" makes no financial sense, it makes sense to distribute bulk materials by truck to local outlets and sell retail. You see that in prices, like $180 total to ship $105 of wire, or a 75 cent item at the electrical supply costing 75 cents "plus $6 shipping".

"But I have Amazon Prime! Shipping is freeeee!"

There's no free lunch. You pay for the Amazon Prime shipping one way or the other, and the $99 membership fee is not the way. They overcharge for the item and lowball or zero the shipping. Now that 75 cent item is $3 -- and if you go check out the fees Amazon charges its Marketplace partners to use Amazon fulfillment, you quickly see why it's $3.

So to be competitive, there is huge motivation to use counterfeits. And absolutely nothing prevents a Marketplace seller from selecting a genuine Wago SKU and claiming to have that exact item when it's actually a counterfeit, or right off the Wago assembly line that are either dumpster-dived QA rejects, or stolen good product.

  • As I've mentioned before, the "orange Borg" and, though I have less specific experience, the "blue Borg" can be perfectly fine. The main thing is to know what you are buying. You can, as with Amazon (but unlike Amazon, you actually pick up the item yourself so you know it is really "x brand" and not just "sort of like x brand but you won't know until you get it" - and I buy plenty of stuff from Amazon, but I am careful about what I buy). There is junk at "orange" and there is some really good stuff there too - you need to know when it matters/why it matters - and shop wisely. – manassehkatz Jun 29 '18 at 19:20
  • As far as Prime - 100% correct. You need to know when it pays - like computer memory I just ordered, got it the next day, no shipping cost (unlike direct from manufacturer) and no long drive to the only local computer store that I trust. And I know enough to get the same name brand that I have used & trusted for years instead of the no-name that might be fine...but might not. But there are plenty of things I've looked for on Amazon and NOT gotten because it is clear the price is higher to cover the "free shipping". TANSTAAFL – manassehkatz Jun 29 '18 at 19:25
  • And last, Harper's advice is not limited to electrical supplies. When it comes to computer parts, there is only one store in my area that I go to myself or send anyone else to. Not exactly the same but they know what they sell (unlike a LOT of big box stores of all types), they support what they sell (which I find "orange" does too, at least credit/replace bad items - but many stores do a poor job of that) and they don't simply sell whatever is "hot" at the moment (unlike certain other big computer stores). If you don't know what you're buying then buy from someone you trust to guide you. – manassehkatz Jun 29 '18 at 19:48
  • The big-box use a shotgun approach to customer service, they don't care and throw money at you to keep you happy. Having spent several years in customer service and having iterated on every method, I conclude they are right. – Harper Jun 29 '18 at 19:58
  • What's amazing is how some big companies get it "right" and some really, really don't. Actually, not so amazing - the ones that are in near-monopoly industries talk a great game but don't deliver, because they don't have to. That being said, I am amazed in the instances where there really is a big difference (in my case, computer stores which I know quite well being in the computer business for > 30 years) the average Joe is clueless and doesn't know when they are being sold "the wrong tool for the job" or (as this conversation started with) total junk. – manassehkatz Jun 29 '18 at 20:12

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