Counterfeiting and

CCCA is leading the fight against counterfeit, non-compliant and sub-standard connectivity products that pose health, safety and performance risks.

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Counterfeiting and Non-Compliance

Those who design, install and use structured cabling systems have a right to expect uncompromised quality, performance and safety. Counterfeit or non-compliant cable and connectivity products are eroding that right and present a formidable challenge.

CCCA’s Role in Fighting Counterfeit and Non-Compliant Products

CCCA leads the fight to confront counterfeit and non-compliant ICT products. Through testing programs, educational initiatives and screening tools, CCCA alerts and educates the industry on the dangers of counterfeit cable and, more importantly, how to avoid being misled by deceptive labels and marketing practices. CCCA’s anti-counterfeiting efforts include close collaboration with independent testing agencies, U.S. Customs and law enforcement.

Non-Compliant vs. Counterfeit – What’s the Difference?

Non-Compliant Cables

  • If a cable bears no certification mark but is marketed and advertised as meeting applicable codes and standards specifications (e.g. Category XX or CM, CMR, CMP fire safety rating), then the cable may be correctly described as “NON-COMPLIANT”.

Counterfeit Cables

  • If a cable or product falsely bears a name or brand that is descriptive of the product that was not produced by that manufacturer, then the cable may be described as “COUNTERFEIT”. For example, a Rolex watch not made by Rolex, but by a manufacturer not authorized to use the Rolex name or mark, which are property rights belonging to Rolex.

  • If a cable bears an unauthorized certification mark (e.g. UL or ETL), then the cable is counterfeit as to the mark. The cable may be described as “BEARING COUNTERFEIT CERTIFICATION” or “COUNTERFEIT MARK”.

How to Identify Counterfeit and Non-Compliant Cables

Why You Need to Know

There is a huge amount of non-compliant, counterfeit and underperforming cable currently being sold on the market. While majority of this cable is being sold via online distributors, ultimately it is the purchaser and installer that bears the responsibility for the product.

Thus, anyone who uses structured cabling must be aware of what they are installing, aware of the risks of using “bad” cable, and understand how they could be liable if something goes wrong.

Non-compliant and substandard cabling poses a health and safety risk in today’s increasingly digital society.

Boxes or reels feel a bit… light.

Category 5e and 6 use copper, and copper is heavy. If a box or reel of cable feels strangely lightweight, there’s a good chance the manufacturer is using Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA). CCA is not an acceptable material for data cables, and thus these types of cables cannot achieve third-party safety verification.

You should know…

  • Typical weight for 1,000ft (305m) of a box of Category 6 is around 23 to 35 lbs (10.5-16kg)

  • Typical weight for 1,000ft (305m) of a box of Category 5e is around 18 to 25 lbs (8-11kg)
  • Typical weight for 1,000ft (305m) of a box of Category 6A is around 30 to 40 lbs (13.5-18kg)

Unusually low cost.

Cables aren’t cheap. Materials such as copper and fire and smoke-resistant compounds are not inexpensive. Thus, one of your first warning signs of potentially non-compliant cable is simply the price. Too good to be true? It usually is.

You should know…

  • Specialty compounds used to make cables safe in the event of fire are highly specialized and expensive – this cost should be reflected in the price of the product.

  • A box of compliant cable can be expensive. Cable that costs 30% lower than market price should be suspect.

  • Be wary of structured cable purchased on the internet, as CCCA have found a large number to be non-compliant or even illegal to install!

It doesn’t pull correctly.

REELEX® packaging (sometimes called “Pull Boxes”) is the standard packaging method for most low-voltage cable, but there are imitations! These imitations are one of your first signs of suspect cabling.

Imitation REELEX packages look the same from the outside, but inside are very different. Knockoff REELEX machines make knockoff packaging, and produce coils that can knot, tangle and cause cable damage.

You should know…

  • REELEX is the inventor and licensor of the “pull box” packaging system, but it’s not the box that allows the product to pull tangle-free, it’s the machine it’s wound on.

  • Knockoff REELEX boxes attempt to imitate the tangle and twist-free coiling technology, but instead often create imprecise “scramble winds”

  • If you box is kinking or tangling – look for the REELEX logo on the box. If you don’t see it, there’s a good chance it’s a knockoff. If the manufacturer went cheap on the packaging – they probably went cheap on the cable, too.

Missing or erroneous third-party safety verification.

The National Electric Code (NEC) 800.179 requires that all communications cables be verified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory such as UL or Intertek. Cables not complying with verified safety certifications are considered in violation of the code and are illegal to install.

Cables rated as “Plenum” or “Riser” are of particular concern, as they define specifically how the cable is to be used and the safety characteristics that go along with those ratings.

You should know…

  • You should never buy cable without third-party verification

  • Any cable that does not have third-party verification is illegal to install according to the NEC.

  • Cables marked with ETL or UL logos might have certifications that do not apply to that cable. Substandard manufacturers do this by applying for a single certification and then applying that to all of the cables they manufacture – even if those cables have not been tested as safe.

Topic Resources

CCCA Provides the industry with a wide variety of resources to educate and inform. From videos to articles to white papers, we encourage everyone interacting with cable and connectivity to refer to these resources when making buying or installation decisions.

Articles and Resources


2 Simple Ways to Comply with the 2020 NEC

As the number of applications utilizing Power over Ethernet (PoE) technologies continues to grow, 4-pair cables are increasingly being used to transmit both data and power, adding new dimensions to cabling performance and safety requirements.


Fluke Application Note: Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA) Cables

The existence of non-standards compliant, and often counterfeit, cabling products in the market can present serious problems for the companies using them, as well as the cabling installers and engineers who place these products within their customers’ network environments. Testing [...]


Don’t Stint on Cables

As security, communication and automation technology advances, more data is being sent over twisted-pair cabling. As in any popular market, counterfeits and knockoffs are a problem for the cable products industry. Read ways to protect yourself and your business in this article [...]


Impact of Copper Clad Aluminum Conductors Within Balanced Pair Cables

This paper by the Fiberoptic Industry Association (FIA) reviews the implications of using low cost imported products that claim to be “Category 5” or “Category 5e” using Copper Clad Aluminium (CCA) conductors. This document supports many others prepared by [...]


Counterfeit Communications Cable Fire Test Video

CCCA conducted fire tests at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), comparing counterfeit communications cable to compliant cable. This video briefly introduces the problem of counterfeit cable and shows the actual fire test and the spectacular results. View the other [...]


The Dangers of Cutting Corners

The availability and use of copper clad aluminium (CCA) cable is continuing cause for concern. Inside Networks has assembled panel of industry experts to explain whether we are any closer to winning the war against CCA and suggests ways to [...]


Learning from an Encounter with Counterfeit Cable

Learning from an Encounter with Counterfeit Cable Over the past six years, one computer educator and IT coordinator for a small K-8 elementary school, had been pushing for the school to upgrade its aging category 5 cabling infrastructure and [...]


Non-Compliant and Counterfeit Cable: A Risk Too Real to Ignore

In recent years, the industry has heard a good deal of discussion about noncompliant and counterfeit communications cable used for in-building information and communications technology (JCT) infrastructures that support network, security and building automation systems. Much of this has been [...]