One of our China lawyers got an email the other day from an American company that just learned it is in trouble here in the United States (yes, I am being deliberately vague here) stemming from having imported and sold a whole slew of electronics products that are listed as UL certified, but are not. The US company designed the product and sold it under its own brand name. They wanted help finding a new manufacturer that would actually secure UL approval for their products, and not use bogus certificates falsely claiming approval.

Our suggestion to them was that they themselves work with UL to secure any necessary approvals, as that would greatly increase the chances of any approval (or even disapproval) being legitimate. The American company initially mildly complained about having to pay for the UL approval themselves, but quieted rather quickly when I pointed out the following two things:

1.  It had probably never had to pay for any UL testing with its previous manufacturer or only paid a fraction of the real cost. I am guessing that the Chinese manufacturer got the project by underbidding based on its plan to forge UL certification.

2.  If the Chinese manufacturer does pay for UL testing and certification it will both need to charge more for the product (which in turn means that the American company ends up paying for it in any event) and it will — unless there is a clear agreement to the contrary — be the one that holds the UL certification, making it more difficult/expensive for the American company to switch to another manufacturer at some future point.

What do you think?

  • I agree, the American company will end up paying for it anyway.
    The American company should work directly with UL (or another testing lab accredited to deliver UL certifications), pay the testing lab, and get the certificate in its own name.
    This way, that American company “owns” the certification, and the Chinese manufacturer can’t use it to sell the same product to other customer. Granted, they can make/buy a fake one, but at least it reduces risks.

  • Tiltowait

    UL is arrogant and expensive. They don’t care about your factory. Need to have them certified? Yeah, a UL inspector will be out in a few months.

    You contract with an already UL-qualified factory. Duh. Or if you must, use ETL instead. They certify to the same standard as UL, but actually take customers seriously.

  • On the Corner

    Wouldn’t there be a UL certification database of companies worldwide that have received a certificate?