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.

Cable Box with what to look for

Examine the Cable Box

Cable boxes should have the manufacturer logo, country of manufacture, cable performance type, and a holographic label that is specific to each company product.

You should know…

  • Look for the UL holographic label first

  • Check the cable performance type
  • Look for the manufacturer logo and check the country of origin
  • REELEX packaging isn’t required, but a manufacturer not using it could indicate the possibility of cutting corners.

Unusually low cost.

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…

  • Materials used to make cables safe in the event of fire are designed with sophisticated technologies.

  • Specialized cable materials such as fire- and smoke- retardant compounds, plus copper are not inexpensive.

  • Is the price significantly below the average competitive market value? 30% or more? Buyer Beware!

  • Cable products sold through online-only outlets should be carefully evaluated for legitimacy.

Boxes or reels feel a bit… lightweight?

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 allowed material for data cables, and thus these types of cables cannot achieve third-party certification.

You should know…

  • CCA is promoted and sold as equivalent to copper cable conductors, but it actually contains only a thin layer of copper over aluminum, which is cheaper than solid copper.

  • Cable with CCA (aluminum conductors) weighs approximately 30% less than with legitimate copper conductors.

Copper clad aluminum

Think it might be
Copper Clad Aluminum?

Scrape the cable conductor to find out!
If it is copper clad aluminum (CCA), you can easily see the color difference when you scrape off the outer layer of copper.

You should know…

  • Copper clad aluminum  (CCA)  conductors are an even more catastrophic hazard when used in PoE cable!

  • Aluminum heats up more than copper when both data and power are applied, leading to cable performance and safety deficiencies.

UL requires a holographic label on every box or reel of UL Listed communications cable.

UL provides a unique holographic label for each manufacturer and cable that has been tested by them.

The holographic label should be the first point of reference to know that the cable is tested and certified for safety.

You should know…

  • Atempts have been made to counterfeit the UL holographic labels as well.

  • Use an authenticator card, available free from UL, to confirm that the holographic label is genuine. Go to and use the Label Order form for part #1000-S0132.

UL label authenticator

Missing or erroneous third-party safety certification.

The National Electric Code® (NEC®) Chapter 8 requires that all communications cables be certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory such as UL.

Cables not complying with safety certifications are considered in violation of the Code and are illegal to install.

Cables required to be Listed as “Plenum” or “Riser” are of particular concern, as the NEC defines specifically how the cable is installed and their specific safety characteristics.

You should know…

  • Never buy cable without proven third-party certification.

  • Any cable that does not have third-party certification is not in compliance with the NEC and therefore is illegal to install.

  • Unscrupulous cable manufacturers have been caught using unauthorized Listing Marks and misleading information printed on the cable jacket or packaging.

The cable doesn’t pull correctly?

If your cable is kinking or tangling during the pull, look for the REELEX® logo on the box. If you don’t see it, there’s a good chance it’s a knockoff. Sometimes called “pull boxes”, REELEX packaging is the standard packaging method used for most low-voltage cable.

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 is the process by which the cable is wound.

  • Knockoff REELEX boxes attempt to imitate the tangle and twist-free coiling technology, but instead often create imprecise “scramble winds”. This can produce coils that can tangle, knot and cause cable damage.

  • If the manufacturer used poor packaging – they probably also used inferior cable design and component materials.

Use CCCA CableCheck App

Hands holding phone showing CableCheck App

CCCA CableCheck App

A Convenient Field Screening Tool for Checking Suspicious Cable

Helps identify and avoid non-compliant and counterfeit communications cable

  • Screen 4-pair UTP communications cable for compliance to National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements for fire safety
  • Validate Certification in UL Product iQ™ database
  • Link to ETL website to check ETL Listing
  • Learn what to look for to spot non-compliant cable with the 7 Quick Tips
  • Learn the danger of non-compliant or counterfeit cable by viewing CCCA’s Cable Burn Test video

Available FREE for iPhone, iPad and Android Devices

Click on the logos to link to CCCA’s CableCheck in the App Store or Google Play

Or download from your device right away using the appropriate QR Code

Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play

Developed in cooperation with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and U.S. Customs & Homeland Security

For designers, installers, inspectors and end-users of UTP communications cables

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


INFORM Consumers Act – Washington Examiner article 6-2023

Big Tech market platforms now required to prevent thieves from reselling goods "The illegal sales of counterfeits, knockoffs, falsified products and other intellectual property infringing items not only damages legitimate U.S. businesses but also fuels other illicit crimes and poses [...]


Attention! Warning Signs of Bad Cable

Non-compliant and counterfeit cabling pose significant risks to health and safety, and could cause major damage to critical infrastructure. Use this 2-page flyer as a handy reference on what to avoid.


SHOP SAFE Act – One-page Summary

CCCA is part of an industry consortium supporting the effort to generate the SHOP SAFE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the INFORM Consumers Act in the Senate. These two pieces of legislation aim to fight the sale [...]


INFORM Consumers Act: News Release

CCCA endorses and recommends the passage of legislation to protect consumers from counterfeit and stolen products sold online. This urgently needed INFORM Consumers Act will bring greater transparency and accountability to dominant online marketplaces.


Raising the Bar on Patch Cord Performance in the Real World

This paper examines patch cord field performance problems relating to the 8-pin modular connector and cable assembly construction in general. Applicable standards such as ANSI/TIA-1096, IEC 60603-7, and IEC 60512-99-001 are reviewed. Compliance and verification issues and how they relate [...]


Local Area Network (LAN) Cable Performance Testing for Patch Cords

Performance Verification for Category 5e, 6 & 6A Patch Cords In addition to UL’s Channel and Permanent Link performance testing, UL offers Patch Cord performance (verification) testing. Patch Cord performance is critical to the quality of system performance and data [...]


What to Specify When Buying Safe, Performing Patch Cords

As we have reported previously, over 80% of patch cords surveyed in the market, primarily from off-shore suppliers, failed to meet the performance specifications of ANSI/TIA-568-C.2. In these tests, almost half of the non-compliant samples failed 568-C.2 requirements by at [...]


How Smart Infrastructure Can Become Dangerously Dumb

The evolution and growth of applications and new technologies are driving the need for high-performance and high-value cable, a crucial infrastructure necessity that is often overlooked or thought of as a “commodity”. Today’s critical applications require 100% reliability and ever [...]


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. [...]


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 [...]