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US Customs officials seize shipment of counterfeit batteries

Battery Council International, which represents U.S. lead acid battery manufacturers, praised the removal of the potentially unsafe products from the supply chain.

CBP officers in the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, stopped a shipment of 1,072 rechargeable lead acid batteries with counterfeit trademarks. [Photo Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, seized 1,072 rechargeable deep cycle lead batteries that were found to be counterfeit, the agency announced.

The batteries displayed a “Reverse RU,” a counterfeit Underwriters Laboratories trademark.

Lead batteries are highly sought after in Puerto Rico for their use in solar energy backup systems.

CBP estimates the manufacturer suggested retail price of 1,072 genuine batteries of that type at $208,068. Based on a CBP photo of the seizure, the battery markings indicate the products originated in China.

“Consumers purchase products based on the quality attributed to a particular brand,” said Leida Colon, CBP’s assistant director of field operations for trade, in a statement. “Counterfeiters piggyback on a brand to sell an inferior quality product or that which does not meet the industry safety standards.”

In fiscal year 2018, the agency seized 33,810 shipments containing goods that violate intellectual property rights. The genuine equivalents of these products would have been valued at nearly $1.4 billion.

“The work of Customs and other enforcement agencies to prevent the import and distribution of fake goods is critical to fair trade and highly valued and supported by our industry,” Lisa Dry, spokesperson for the Chicago-based Battery Council International (BCI), told American Shipper. 

“Counterfeit goods are unfortunately found across many industries, and in the battery industry, have the potential to create safety and performance issues if they have not been manufactured to the standards we require,” Dry added. “That creates harm for the consumer who has been defrauded of a quality product, and harm to the reputations of our brands.”

BCI estimates that in the U.S., lead acid batteries are used in more than 275 million cars and trucks and support a communications network valued at $1 trillion. According to a recent BCI study, the lead acid battery industry in 2018 directly supported 24,700 manufacturing, mining and recycling jobs, plus 170 research and development jobs, across the U.S.

The battery industry remains wary of counterfeit products entering the U.S. market.

“We are definitely seeing an increasing trend in counterfeits, and a majority of those products appear to be coming from China,” said Chris Gardner, senior vice president of operations for the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The association, which counts among its members the top four lead acid battery manufacturers — Exide, Clarios, East Penn Manufacturing and Interstate Batteries — three years ago established an Intellectual Property Council to track counterfeits within the automotive aftermarket parts business.

“We’re concerned that some online marketplaces have fostered the spread of counterfeit products because it’s so easy to sell them online,” Gardner said.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.