|Example of a Counterfeit UL Sticker|
Missouri-based furniture and home decor company GuildMaster was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to importing thousands of lamps marked with counterfeit "UL" (Underwriter Laboratories) certification mark stickers.
UL is an independent product safety certification organization accredited for safety testing by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
If a product carries an authentic UL certification mark, it means UL found that representative product samples met UL's safety requirements. These requirements are primarily based on UL's own published standards for safety. According to the UL website, this type of mark is seen commonly on appliances and computer equipment, furnaces and heaters, fuses, electrical panel boards, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems, personal flotation devices, bullet resistant glass, and thousands of other products.
A counterfeit UL sticker has the potential to mislead consumers into believing an electrical item has met the UL's safety requirements, when it may not have.
GuildMaster's website proclaims that "it is every company's responsibility to operate in a manner that is respectful of people and the planet." The company further claims that it has an "open book management" philosophy, in which it encourages its employees to "think and act like owners."
Nonetheless, in December 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials reportedly discovered that thousands of lamps that were being imported into the U.S. from China by GuildMaster were emblazoned with counterfeit UL labels.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, GuildMaster, which was formerly a client of UL, stopped producing its own lamps in 2005. Since 2005, GuildMaster has purchased lamps manufactured in China and imported them into the United States under the GuildMaster label.
GuildMaster maintains that none of its agents or employees had personal knowledge that they violated U.S. laws by importing the lamps. However, GuildMaster acknowledges that the knowledge and actions of its subsdiary's employees and agents are fairly attributed to GuildMaster.
Before the federal seizures, GuildMaster admitted that it did not inspect lamps coming from China to ascertain the authenticity of the "UL" certification marks placed upon the lamps. GuildMaster acknowledges that had it inspected the lamps, its employees would likely have seen counterfeit and unauthorized UL marks.
The sentence imposed in federal court requires destruction of nearly two million dollars worth of the lamps, and 5 years of probation.
Following the indictment, GuildMaster had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is unclear if the sentence imposed will affect the company's continued existence, as GuildMaster had recently filed a request to extend time to file its bankruptcy exit plan, citing the government's demands that the lamps be destroyed.