Counterfeit cable

It is a common misunderstanding that a cable is compliant with standards or even BASEC approved just because the supplier claims it has been produced to a particular standard.

Cable marked with only a standard number should be treated with caution. It is probable that nobody independent of the manufacturer has examined that cable, and the claims made may be unreliable. Only cable marked with the “BASEC” name is BASEC approved, by demonstrating its compliance to the required standards.

Cable standards not only specify the dimensions and materials of a cable, they also require that a range of specific tests are undertaken to prove the construction and performance. Many non-approved cables have not been subject to the required tests.

In this section, you will find information on faulty cable and practical measures to address the problem.

Below is a video of counterfeit cables being destroyed by BASEC.


Rising copper prices have added to the problem of sub-standard and faulty cables. Manufacturers of cable may be tempted to cut corners and use less copper than is required.

Cable standards specify the maximum conductor resistance permitted, in accordance with the standard IEC 60228. Drawing down the diameter of the copper wire too much has the effect of increasing resistance (reducing conductance). Cables with resistance higher than specified may overheat or offer a reduced level of safety. In extreme cases, this could result in fire or electric shock.

BASEC sometimes sees materials other than pure copper in use in cables, such as steel wire, copper-coated aluminium or badly recycled copper.

The problems don't stop with copper content, though. As BASEC has investigated some of these inferior quality products, we have discovered that some have incorrect cable construction, incorrect marking, use incorrect insulation and/or sheathing materials leading to cracking, and in some instances they have poor smoke and fire performance in supposedly fire and smoke rated cables.

All BASEC approved cables are regularly tested for conductor resistance (100% of samples selected are tested).

What You Should Do

Unfortunately, it is often not until cables are installed, tested or used that an issue comes to light and by then it can be too late to avoid the potentially enormous costs of rectifying the situation.

If you are an installer, we advise the following precautionary steps and action to safeguard against the risk of installing cable which is sub-standard.

1. Prevention is better than cure. Instruct your procurement department to buy approved cable - not just the cheapest available but products which are BASEC approved. Then when the cable arrives check more specifically what they have purchased for you and inspect the product. Is it what was specified? On larger projects cable is sometimes purchased by the main contractor and issued to installers. In this situation make sure that the cable is as specified.

2. If there is found to be a problem with the cable, for example on system testing, don't immediately strip it out - it may be safe to leave in place - but instead seek advice.

3. Contact your trade body e.g. ECA or inspectorate e.g., NICEIC on the installation aspects, or contact BASEC on cable quality issues. Please see contact details at the end of this section.

4. Should there be any problems, keep records of the purchase, including reel ends with batch marking on, receipts from the wholesaler and any other sales records on your computer system, and a sample of the cable markings.

5. If you have scrap lengths, these can be sent to BASEC for checking and testing - 1.5m is good, longer is better. Based on the test results, BASEC will then advise on the best course of action.

Should BASEC find serious faults with a cable such that BASEC would under normal circumstances issue a product recall to the manufacturer, BASEC will contact the manufacturer and suppliers (importers / distributors/wholesalers) with the findings.

Dependent upon the response, BASEC may choose to make public details of the faulty cable and the parties responsible. This information will be made available to the trade media and professional organisations in the interests of public safety.