Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BUYER BEWARE OF FIRE



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More counterfeit extension cords found
By
SARAH NETTERTHE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 30, 2007)
County inspectors have found more dangerous counterfeit extension cords for sale at Rockland discount stores one week after Spring Valley's fire inspector made the initial discovery of cords with fake safety certification labels.
After learning of Harry Oster's findings in Spring Valley, the county's Office of Consumer Protection sent four inspectors out Friday to begin canvassing Rockland's dollar and discount stores.


They were looking for extension cords with counterfeit UL labels, with "UL" referring to Underwriters Laboratories, which inspects electrical items before they are sold.
The cords Oster found were 6- and 15-foot cords that were labeled as made in China.
Terry Grosselfinger, director of Rockland's Office of Consumer Protection, said the inspectors would look at about two dozen stores and put any suspicious cords "off-sale" until they were either deemed safe or counterfeit. The sweep of the county was expected to take until midweek, he said.


Joan O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Consumer Protection, said inspectors found two stores Friday that had cords suspected of being counterfeit. Both were dollar stores, one in West Nyack and one in Spring Valley.
Gordon Wren, the county's fire coordinator, said the fake cords are a significant fire hazard, because they cannot handle the electricity needed for common uses.
"If you don't have the proper capacity ... they'll heat up," he said.
The cheap extension cords, he said, have far less copper to carry the electricity than standard cords.


"They're really, really dangerous," he said.
Wren's office is assisting the Office of Consumer Protection in identifying the counterfeit extension cords. Wren said his office is also in contact with UL and the National Fire Protection Association, which sets standards for fire safety.
Shopping Friday at the Valley Cottage Dollar Tree, Mindy Scher of Nanuet said she had heard about the counterfeit cords, and she wouldn't buy extension cords from a dollar store anyway.
"I know that they aren't safe," she said. "Why take a chance?"
But dollar stores are great, she said, pointing to her cart, which held snacks and trinkets for her grandchildren.


A manager at Dollar Tree said the store did not carry extension cords.
Legislator Ed Day, R-New City, said the news about fake cords hit a nerve with him, because it's not easy to tell the counterfeit versions from certified cords.
"The average person is not going to know," he said.
Day called Grosselfinger shortly after it was reported that Oster had found counterfeit cords. Day said Friday that he was impressed the Office of Consumer Protection was out doing inspections so quickly.


Gary Brown, director of the Westchester County Office of Consumer Protection, said Friday that the discovery of the Spring Valley cords led his office to do a similar inspection, which turned up suspect cords in a Port Chester store.
There have been no complaints about counterfeit extension cords in Putnam County.
Staff writer Nancy Cutler contributed to this report.