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Old 07-27-2011, 09:18 PM   #1
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Legality Legal Issues of Selling Home-Made Gear ie: Fixture Whips Commercially


Hey guys it's that crazy mysterylectricity guy again,

Big fans of my work may recall my proposal to put L14-20R's along the kitchen counter. Although much derided I think that idea ranks near the top as the most brilliant purely electrical idea I've had this year, but I digress.

In a very remotely related story, I advised my partner to buy approximately 9,500 L14-20P Coopers for a very small fraction of their retail value. Sales are slow but she's tickled that the margin is so high.

She's gotten all into it, and I mentioned she might be able to add value and boost sales by making fixture whips. She loved that idea.

And then some weeks later I came in to about 500 feet of 10/4 SOOW for a small fraction of its scrap value.

So, I guess we're ready to go, if it's legal.

I'd make a few simple jigs for stripping with no damage, I have a sensitive torque wrench, can make go/no-go testers of any kind... whatever seems reasonable. She's a seasoned hairdresser so I'd trust her hands over mine any day.

Obviously business liability insurance would be a good idea.

Once again looking for where the rubber meets the road, around issues like these:

Anyone know of a law or rule that would outright prohibit this?

Can anyone suggest who I should talk to: say like my state Department of Commerce?

Would it make a difference if she were "supervised" by a licensed electrician? Or if the whips were installed by one?

Obviously she couldn't sell them as "UL Listed". But could she say "made of UL listed parts in accordance with manufacturers' instructions" or add "using listed techniques."?

Hmmm well, lot's of issues outside the scope of this forum... but my first pass would be to say that the fact that these are not permanent wiring puts them outside the jurisdiction of the NEC proper, and squarely into the lap of the insurance companies ie through UL. And where the rubber meets the road _there_ is probably: yeah, if the insurance company can prove that a fire was caused by the cord, there might be an issue. But that's probably also the case if they can prove that your repairs to an extension cord caused a fire. Presumably these whips would be installed either by the homeowner or an electrician and the chips would fall accordingly.

Whatchyouthink?

-Jeff

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Old 07-27-2011, 09:29 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by mysterylectric View Post
but my first pass would be to say that the fact that these are not permanent wiring puts them outside the jurisdiction of the NEC proper, and squarely into the lap of the insurance companies ie through UL. And where the rubber meets the road _there_ is probably: yeah, if the insurance company can prove that a fire was caused by the cord, there might be an issue. But that's probably also the case if they can prove that your repairs to an extension cord caused a fire. Presumably these whips would be installed either by the homeowner or an electrician and the chips would fall accordingly.

Whatchyouthink?

-Jeff
I think.... I was paid well as an attorney to find things like this in order to DENY homeowner's claims against their Home Insurance. Same with the Extension cord both of them = not only denial of claim but also likely cancellation of all coverage.

But I'm guessing that if you think your homemade whips don't fall under NEC jurisdiction (can I get a cite - guys?) that Insurance Issue won't bother you either.

And since you asked: who is your proposed market? Do a poll here. Who here would buy a homemade appliance whip with no UL listing? I'm guessing any certified electrician values their license more than saving a few bucks. And this DIYer wouldn't touch one with the proverbial ten foot pole.

Lastly, the chips will likely fall into your lap under any number of product liability and strict liability laws and case in the US.

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Old 08-02-2011, 09:39 PM   #3
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One of the things I love about this forum is the wide range of experts it draws.

>I think.... I was paid well as an attorney to find things like this in order to >DENY homeowner's claims against their Home Insurance. Same with the >Extension cord both of them = not only denial of claim but also likely >cancellation of all coverage.

I'm curious as to whether you (personally) actually found extension cord repairs to be at fault, and how this compares (percentage wise) to other
situations that led to fires where the homeowner was found to be at fault. And how this compares to cases where a licensed electrician was found to be at fault. I'm almost sure I carry liability insurance for a really good reason.

>But I'm guessing that if you think your homemade whips don't fall under NEC >jurisdiction (can I get a cite - guys?) that Insurance Issue won't bother you >either.

Actually I think I anticipated that insurance would be the issue.

>And since you asked: who is your proposed market? Do a poll here. Who here >would buy a homemade appliance whip with no UL listing? I'm guessing any >certified electrician values their license more than saving a few >bucks. And this DIYer wouldn't touch one with the proverbial ten >foot pole.

Any rational person who knows anything about making fixture whips. I've seen a few molded adapters and extension cords in L14-20 but so far no molded fixture whips (I'll bet they do exist, I'll give you that).

But generally fixture whips like these are made of listed components in the field under less than ideal conditions with less than ideal tools. Without special tools or techniques it's difficult not to loose a few "hairs" of this finer, flexible wire.

I proposed special tools in my original post.

So what the rational DIY'er must ask is whether, given enough time, he or she can do a better job with a butter and steak knife than I can do with a hot wire stripper, torque wrench, pull tester, and high current micro-ohmeter.

Though of course there is no guarantee you don't have these tools, any more than there is a guarantee than a cottage industry is using them. In general you might have a point. It's part of the DIY aesthetic to defend until death the idea that a DIY'er can do it cheaper AND better. Rationality doesn't always take the upper hand.

>Lastly, the chips will likely fall into your lap under any number of product >liability and strict liability laws and case in the US.[/QUOTE]

The chips only fall on the uninsured, and then only on the propertied. Bottom line is if it falls under the scope of a reasonably priced liability insurance package it makes sense. If not, it's dicey.

I'd like to wrap this up with some points and authorities but the clock just struck crunch time and I'm mostly out for about 4 or 5 days.
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:11 PM   #4
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Read some of his previous posts, he is either nuts or he is trying to play us
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysterylectric View Post

I'm curious as to whether you (personally) actually found extension cord repairs to be at fault, and how this compares (percentage wise) to other
situations that led to fires where the homeowner was found to be at fault. And how this compares to cases where a licensed electrician was found to be at fault. I'm almost sure I carry liability insurance for a really good reason.

The chips only fall on the uninsured, and then only on the propertied. Bottom line is if it falls under the scope of a reasonably priced liability insurance package it makes sense. If not, it's dicey.
Two points:
1. As to the stats I can't state with any authority re: percentages. It's been several years. But I can say that there is an entire industry of inspectors and experts that descend on houses after fires looking for anything that could have caused the fire that was not legit. So long as a licensed electrician isn't negligent he/she can make mistakes that lead to fires without exposing themselves to liability. If a HOer makes the same mistake without permits - and is caught - no amount of insurance is going to help because the insurance policy will be revoked based on the breach.

2. "The chips only fall on the uninsured, and then only on the propertied. Bottom line is if it falls under the scope of a reasonably priced liability insurance package it makes sense. If not, it's dicey."

- This attitude is why Firestone released tires that delaminated, Thalidimide was given to pregnant women, and any other morally abhorrent corporate decisions were made. At least, publically traded companies get the excuse that the directors are obligated to take action that is in the financial benefit of the company even if it is in conflict with the morally upright action. Being judgment proof (unpropertied) doesn't stop people and insurance companies from suing you. It just means it's harder for them to collect - but legal judgments against you will NEVER go away unless you change your identity.

- Here's your real problem. What insurance policy is going to cover you selling these items? Your general liability insurance isn't going to cover it. I'd have a serious talk with your agent before you assume that your liability coverage will protect you here. Are you insured for manufacturing, marketing, selling etc an electrical component that is not UL listed?
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Old 09-07-2011, 12:21 AM   #6
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The proposal is to use UL listed products as they are intended to be used. For example:

We're using a UL listed L1420P plug with screw-type (pressure) terminals. Listed for what, exactly? For injection molding into a "finished" retail product? Clearly not.

Reading the brief instructions is insightful. There are some technical instructions, succinct but sufficient, along with the following statement:

"To be installed or checked by an electrician or qualified person only."

UL (yes, UL... the insurance people) leave the door wide open as to what constitutes a qualified person.

So let's look at what's happening de facto in the sphere of "qualified person". If you nose your way around, you'll start tripping over websites touting programs designed to educate emergency personnel about electricity and electrical repairs. Many of these are government agencies: and although such agencies have been known to do wrong, it sets precedent.

Often, one of the express goals of these programs is to empower the attendees to instruct others in the same proceedures. What you end up with is a sort of "telephone" game where people of dubious qualifications dubiously qualify others to dubiously qualify scores of others. Circuits and repairs that just flat out don't work, pop the breakers, or give someone a "buzz" serve as the only crude feedback, alerting an otherwise competent person that "better" qualified assistance should be sought.

I can tell you the same thing happens within the electrician trade proper. An "electrician" may have 100 or more "journeymen" working for the organization. It's entirely possible such an employee never meets the licensed guy, except maybe at the Christmas parties. Let alone "checks" your work. If anyone checks your work, it's a supervisor (unlicensed) who wants a piece of the business you brought in. The same "telephone" game happens and the same crude feedback mechanism applies: if you don't think you can handle the job, you pass it up to someone more senior. Same applies if you just can't make it work.

Neither of these scenarios is ideal, but from what I can tell, UL has no problem with it. If the insurers who look to UL have a problem with it, they should tell the UL people to change the wording of their instructions, or take their business to another listing agency.

Keep in mind it's not enough for an investigator to find an extension cord repair in a burned down house to avoid paying a claim. As far as I'm concerned (and I do keep up with my reading) they have to prove that it was the cause of the fire, and perhaps that the work was performed by an "unqualified" person as well.

Generally people should and sometimes do pay for their mistakes. That's no excuse for not engaging in everyday life or in business. Insurance is a great thing to have to protect your assets and your conscience, but is not necessarily a prerequisite for doing business unless required by law: as part of maintaining a license for example.

Hmm well I'm over budget by about 20 minutes here. To sum:

The instructions don't list licensing or insurance as a requirement to use the product. Indeed, even the term "electrician" is not qualified with the word "licensed".

I don't see a credible effort on the part of UL to advise consumers otherwise, to put it mildly.

I'll be sure to recommend general liability insurance if my friend wants to go into this business, it's always a good idea.

But if she can't get reasonable insurance, I don't see it as a show-stopper at this point. She'll have to gamble on losing her assets.

I appreciate your challenging responses, Leah. Still holding out for a code or other citation, if one should step forward.

Otherwise I'll call it a wrap.

-Jeff
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Old 09-07-2011, 05:13 AM   #7
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Legality Legal Issues of Selling Home-Made Gear ie: Fixture Whips Commercially


The part about buying 9500 receptacles tells me you're a goof.
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Old 09-07-2011, 05:20 AM   #8
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This guy reminds me of my best man, but he went by Sonny so I'm assuming that since this guy goes by Jeff that it's not him and my previous assumption that my best man is unique is out the door.

Quote:
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But if she can't get reasonable insurance, I don't see it as a show-stopper at this point. She'll have to gamble on losing her assets.
-Jeff
I think I would suggest that if she can't get reasonable insurance, that should be a show stopper because it probably is the red flag that should tell you that this is a gamble that is pretty likely to be one you would lose.
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Old 09-07-2011, 07:33 AM   #9
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A reasonable and resposable company will not buy anythig that is not ul approved, so there is more than have of your battle.

Why would anyone come to a DIY site and try to convince us that what he/she is making for sale is safe and legal.

Good luck with your project, and I hope no one has to suffer from it!
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Old 09-07-2011, 12:21 PM   #10
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Have you considered actually applying for a UL listing?
They have a simple online quote form.

If you're serious about this, IMO, it would be foolish not to apply for a UL listing.
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Old 09-07-2011, 01:33 PM   #11
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As far as I know you cannot sell anything that is not UL and/or CSA listed, which is a pretty big task. I built a custom power bar:

http://www.iceteks.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=5441&

All parts rated at 15 amps or higher, done to code using UL parts etc...

But I could not actually sell this legally. I actually looked at what it takes to get something CSA approved and they actually sent me guidelines on power bars but it's HUGE, never really got the chance to look at it. I got confused when it started talking about solar panels.
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Old 09-07-2011, 11:24 PM   #12
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Have you considered actually applying for a UL listing?
They have a simple online quote form.

If you're serious about this, IMO, it would be foolish not to apply for a UL listing.
No, not as simple as that really. Here's what I can say based on my experience with UL in the realm of UL approved medical devices as a mechanical engineer, and generally speaking for the most part this is stuff that was dealt with by the electrical engineers so I did not have as much exposure as others I worked with.

To get a UL listing on your device, at a minimum it will need to be tested to whatever requirements apply to the device. That is required to be done at a UL certified test facility, which means your testing will not count. Let's not even talk about you becoming a UL certified test facility.

The most basic testing from a UL test facility is a few thousand, plus the listing is a few thousand. We were getting UL listing on a particular device for one customer who was ordering 14 of this device, and in order to get approval in 3 weeks we also paid an extra $5000 for expediting, otherwise you're probably waiting 2 months. I'm not sure your turnaround as schmuck off the street would be as quick, let alone that you'd get approval on your first try.

Now as far as regulatory requirements, I am a little hazy as to whose requirements I'm thinking of and it could well be FDA (which would not apply) rather than UL, but for liability you certainly need to consider use that can reasonably be expected even if it is not intended use, and you may be able to get some coverage for that liability with labelling - which itself is covered by UL listing requirements such as symbols, type sizes and so forth... This is the kind of stuff that companies in the business have guys whose job is dedicated to regulatory compliance.
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Old 10-27-2012, 10:17 PM   #13
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It's been a while since I've tended to this thread, but in case anyone stumbles on it:

As to UL listing of the assembly, I feel I've come up with the authoritative answer. I forget which one(s) now: but at least one MAJOR generator manufacturer describes their extension cords as "made with UL listed components." If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

As to the comparisons between myself and someone's best man or some other fool, I encouraged her to buy 9,500 plugs in retail packaging for $6000 shipped cross-country. That's about $.63 each. These plugs retail at the big box stores for about $18-$22 each. She sells them on ebay for $9.50 each, after fees and shipping she nets about $6 each. She sold about 300 this year, for an annual return of about %30. In this economy that's a very good return.

I don't see the NEMA standards as changing anytime in the foreseeable future (thought it has happened in the past). She's very happy with the extra $150 a month of income, and very desirous of another product to sell.

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