There are a lot of questions about how the US Customs and Border Protection Agency detains and confiscates products. We were fortunate to meet with the Deputy Director of Trade and found out a few answers, but we still can’t say exactly what they are doing there. That may just be how they prefer it. Here are some answers that were helpful to us in understanding their current process for inspecting electronic components;
- They have 10 different industry specializations, one of which is their Center of Excellence for Consumer Electronics and Semiconductors.
- The companies who import items that are confiscated, as well as their overseas suppliers, are subsequently targeted for increased inspections and detentions.
- They are using many of the standard methods internally for authentication of semiconductors (acetone swipe, country of origin consistent, date codes, lot codes, etc.)
- They have recently invested in a counterfeit detection lab consisting of microscopes, X-ray and decapsulation equipment.
- They contact the manufacturers of the product and often send them samples for verification. They say that if manufacturers are not being completely forthright on their evaluations, they have ways to make them accountable for their lack of goodwill cooperation. The reason this is so important is because it would be really easy for manufacturers to just say everything is suspect counterfeit if it is not coming from one of their authorized distributors. Then authentic parts would get confiscated all the time.
- Their agents still do not have bag sealing equipment to keep moisture sensitive parts dry nor do they have a good way to strap trays to keep the parts from getting damaged during further transit. Our team has given the deputy director some tips on what to use for strapping and sealing components, but the cost seemed to be the hurdle stopping them from improving their process. We have been a victim of damaged parts on a small scale due to this lack of proper packaging procedures, but there have been larger cases outside of AERI in which expensive parts have been made unusable.
- There is a program in place for an agent to detain and confiscate parts if a US buyer suspects parts of being counterfeit.
- If you do have inexpensive parts confiscated which you do not plan to fight for, it is wise to send a letter explaining that you are not going to argue with their results, and be sure to include what actions you plan to take to avoid getting counterfeits sent to you in the future.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised that the agency has been making big improvements, but they still have a little ways to go. At the rate they are going it seems like they will be able to solve some of the remaining problems soon, with the help of constructive criticism coming from importers.
Robb Hammond is the President of AERI and the chair of the Aerospace Industry’s Counterfeit Electronic Components Mitigation Standard for independent distributors, AS6081, which has become one of the industry’s most respected documents, as well as being adopted by the Department of Defense. Robb is one of the foremost thought leaders in the industry on counterfeit detection and speaks regularly at conferences around the globe.