For companies purchasing and utilizing electronic components, the firm ERAI is a mandatory resource for information on counterfeit products hitting the market. Recently, ERAI ran a blog post listing a host of websites known or suspected to be selling counterfeit electronics. According to ERAI, the companies on their list “These sites have been set up with the intent to commit fraud. Dozens of victims have come forward sharing nearly identical experiences.” Clearly, ERAI wants you to take this seriously.
I’ve gone one step further, and checked on the companies and websites listed by ERAI as being engaged in fraud. Sure enough, some bear ISO certifications or other accreditations.
The website at I-components.com includes three curious logos on the footer of its site: that of the Chinese accreditation body CNAS, that of the IAF and finally that of UL. None of these make sense by themselves, and would raise suspicions to anyone who understands the inner workings of ISO certifications. CNAS only accredits certification bodies (registrars), and yet I-components doesn’t actually show any registrar. The IAF logo also only means something with respect to accreditation bodies, and wouldn’t apply to i-components. It’s also impossible for the company to claim its entire catalog is UL listed, since that’s done on a per-product basis, so slapping the UL logo on the website is a clear indication of fraud.
A handful of other websites from I-Components, including i-components.si and i-components.sk, also include the CNAS, IAF and UL logos.
The distributor Components Shop also includes the CNAS and UL logos, but adds that of ISO itself. That site then includes product data sheets citing ISO 9001 certifications. Those data sheets appear to come from legitimate companies, such as Abracon, who are probably entirely unaware their names and certifications are being invoked by a Chinese counterfeiter.
A seemingly related website for Components Center features a similar claim, again using the ISO and CNAS logos:
The website for Buy Components likewise includes the ISO and IAF logos, as well as that of the Electronic Components Industry Association, an organization that is supposed to police these sorts of things:
The website for Now Component goes further, adding a false claim of AS9100C certification to its bevy of logos including that of CNAS, ISO and the IAF to their footer:
Let’s be clear: in all these cases, none of the companies actually hold any ISO 9001 or AS9100 certifications. The websites are clearly the work of one or two single companies, as they share core design aesthetics and layouts, and all come from China.
By the way, some usage of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” shows the illegal use of these logos going back over a year or more, so the problem is not recent.
What’s particularly problematic is the fact that the CNAS and IAF logos appear so regularly on these sites. Fraudulent companies know they can get away with it, because neither IAF nor CNAS are interested in carrying out their obligations to prevent such things.
If the name “CNAS” rings a bell, it’s because it stands for the China National Accreditation Service, and its chief executive, Xiao Jianhua, is the Chair of the IAF (International Accreditation Forum.) The IAF sits over the world’s entire accreditation scheme, and has handed over control to an executive of an organization that not only produces more fraudulent ISO 9001 certificates than any on the planet, but manages the organization that seems to do such a poor job in controlling the illegal use of its logo by companies selling deadly counterfeit components to medical device and aerospace companies.
CNAS has insisted — and US companies like IAF and ASQ have bought into it — that they are working to make fraudulent use of their logos and counterfeit certificates illegal under Chinese law. The fact that CNAS fails to pursue any serious enforcement of these laws is ignored by IAF and ASQ, and even ISO itself. CNAS’ mandate is to support the directives of the central Communist Party government, which itself is pushing a “Made in China” rebranding that markets Chinese goods as having high quality. The government benefits when fraudulent ISO certificates flood the market as it helps create an illusion that China is a quality producer. After all, consumers don’t know the difference between real and fake ISO 9001 certificates, and the IAF helped worsen this by working to remove requirements for public-facing registries through which the public could verify such certificates. Organizations like IAF, ISO and ASQ benefit from partnerships with China and CNAS, who then promote their organizations and sell memberships, books and certifications to Chinese consumers in return.
So to recap: groups like CNAS, ISO and IAF are tasked to monitor the usage of their logos by fraudulent companies and criminals, but routinely fail to do so. This is because the ISO community has surrendered to China, for short term revenue gains, and has little concern over who gets killed when counterfeit products get used in vehicles and products used by average consumers.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.