Nation Under Siege: Counterfeit Li-Ion Batteries

Counterfeit Li-Ion - Covered Logos

The US market is drowning in counterfeit and cheap knock-off Lithium-Ion laptop batteries. Counterfeit Lithium-Ion laptop batteries pose significant safety risks – including the risk of extreme heat, fire and explosions, not to mention it may damage your laptop.  

Counterfeit Lithium-Ion batteries are a multi-million dollar business. One counterfeiter & his co-conspirators made $24 million prior being caught.

As owner of a PC repair business, I see an alarming increase in counterfeits each day. This is not to mention consequences which include damaged laptops. Typically, the motherboard is fried following a bad DIY Lithium-Ion battery replacement.

Most alarming, laptops are destroyed from Li-Ion thermal events. Unsafe conditions cause cells to “vent” or rupture. The “venting” occurs at high temperatures and is sometimes associated with thermal runway as pictured below from our CCTV system.

Counterfeit Li-Ion Vents | Fire Extinguished with CellBlock Fire Containment Systems

Amazon hit with Federal Class Action: Fraudulent Li-Ion Batteries

Crosby v Inc [Case 2:20-cv-08003] is one of many cases against Amazon. This is a Federal Class Action with allegations Amazon knowingly and fraudulently misrepresents Lithium-Ion batteries on their site.

As an IT Professional, my knowledge on Li-Ion and Li-Poly batteries is extensive. It is my opinion Amazon, eBay, and others, are fully aware of the counterfeit and knock-offs. Furthermore, I believe these companies turn a blind eye in the name of profits. Sadly, it seems, counterfeiting is a cost of doing business.

Counterfeit Li-Ion Battery
Counterfeit Li-Ion Battery 
Advertised as "Genuine HP" 

No Origin
No Manufacturer
Poor English

As the old adage goes, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”    This is particularly true when it comes to inexpensive lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries for laptops.

If counterfeiters invest in proper design, qualification, quality control, or supply chain management, they’d lose their price advantage. There is a reason why one battery is $30 while the genuine OEM branded battery is $119.

Big Business: Counterfeit Lithium-Ion Batteries

A year ago, Zoulin Cai, a.k.a. “Allen Cai,” 29, of La Puente, California, plead guilty to federal criminal charges for participating in a multimillion-dollar scheme to manufacture and ship counterfeit laptop computer batteries from China to the United States.  

Co-conspirators in China shipped the counterfeits to the United States, sometimes covering the trademarks with black tape or a similar material, so a quick inspection of the items by customs officials would not reveal the trademark.

Counterfeit Li-Ion - Covered Logos

Pictured: Concealment of brand trademark to pass counterfeit battery through US Customs.

The bogus batteries were sold to unsuspecting buyers in online marketplaces. Cai and co-conspirators made $24 million dollars from the sale of laptop batteries through eBay and Amazon.

eBay Seller Correspondence admitting concealment from US Customs

In response to an inquiry about logos covered with black labels, an eBay seller states, “In order to avoid customs inspection, the logo is covered by the label.

This statement is an admission of a US federal crime. Concealment to import counterfeit goods is smuggling.

The eBay seller also engages in fraud insisting the item “is a brand new genuine battery.

I filed a complaint with eBay; no action was taken at the time I’m aware of. In fact, the negative feedback I left concerning the counterfeit item was deleted by eBay.

Update: Seller account is now closed.

Li-Poly batteries can swell and sometimes vent (rupture) in thermal runaway.

Purchase from Trusted Sources

Purchase lithium-ion laptop batteries from a trusted source, whether it’s direct from HP, Dell, Lenovo, or a local business such as Louisville Computer Repair – Takeoff Business Solutions.

We source batteries from authorized distributors which serve as official distribution channels for supply chain integrity.

Brands including Axiom, BTI (Battery Technology Inc), and Total Micro all produce quality OEM equivalent replacement batteries at price-points similar to or slightly cheaper than OEM branded units.

Generally, expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $150 for a genuine lithium-ion laptop battery.  The cost of genuine battery may seem excessive when compared to the battery smorgasbord on marketplace sites.  However, it’s a small price to pay for safety and peace of mind.

Finally, don’t forget to recycle your old lithium-ion battery. We recycle lithium-ion batteries in partnership with Call2Recycle.

Published by:  Steve Richardson, Managing Director
               Louisville Computer Repair
               9509 US-42, Suite 204
               Prospect KY 40059
               (502) 565-1900

Steve is an technology industry veteran and Managing Director at Louisville Computer Repair - Takeoff Business Solutions. 
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