Counterfeit refrigerator water filters confound industry

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If you’re about to replace the water filter that’s in your refrigerator, you should be careful. The replacement filter might be counterfeit.

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is warning consumers about an increase in phony replacement water filters. These water filters use the same brand names and are made to look like genuine products, but they haven’t been tested to industry standards. Consequently, they might not filter out contaminants that are in water, such as lead, asbestos and pesticides, AHAM says. They also might not fit, might damage the refrigerator if they fit and even might cause flooding.

“It’s a huge concern,” says Jill Notini of AHAM, who adds that manufacturers became aware of the problem in the past year. AHAM says a large percentage of replacement water filters are bought online. (AHAM says you should replace your refrigerator’s water filter every 6 months. The price typically starts at about $40.)

Which replacement refrigerator water filter is counterfeit? It's the one on the right.

Which replacement refrigerator water filter is counterfeit? It's the one on the right.

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for consumers to tell the difference between a genuine replacement water filter and a fake. Notini says the counterfeiters make their products appear to be nicer than are the genuine parts in some cases. Price also isn’t necessarily a telltale sign.

“Of course, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, but I will tell you that in some cases, the price is not too far off,” Notini says. The best course of action for consumers if they shop online is to go to the website of their refrigerator manufacturer and buy either from the manufacturer directly or from the manufacturer’s trusted dealer, she says.

AHAM created the website, which has links to genuine replacement water filters of 17 refrigerator brands.

—W. Christensen