Potential liabilities of copper-clad aluminum cable manufacture, installation

White paper offered by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association explains how installers and manufacturers can put themselves ‘on the hook’ by bringing copper-clad aluminum cable to market.

A new white paper authored by the law firm Crowell and Moring LLP and published by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) lays out the potential legal liabilities that cable manufacturers and/or installers may face if they bring to market copper-clad aluminum cable that is sold under the premise that it is a Category-rated communications cable. “The white paper is intended to educate and answer questions about the legal risks assumed by installers of communications cables that are specifically not allowed by the National Electrical Code,” the CCCA said when announcing the paper’s availability.

“In addition to being prohibited by the National Electrical Code, communications cables made with copper-clad aluminum conductors are also in direct violation of industry standards that specify requirements for Category cables, and are in violation of the UL 444 standard for multi-conductor communications cables,” the association continued. “Such cables are not eligible to receive a fire safety listing from UL, or any other independent testing agency.”

The paper explains that the potential exists for manufacturers and/or contractors to face legal accusations including breach of contract and warranty, false advertising, violation of state consumer-protection acts, and misrepresentation.

The CCCA’s executive director Frank Peri commented, “After more research into copper-clad aluminum cables, we felt a further analysis of the legal risks was needed to complement our previous white paper on potential liabilities from noncompliant cables. Our research indicated that many contractors are not aware that cables marked as Category 5e or 6 and made with copper-clad aluminum conductors cannot be legally installed into any area that requires a National Electrical Code fire safety rating.

“We want to educate and alert contractors who may not realize that they are assuming significant risk when they install these cables that are improperly labeled as ‘Category’ and bear markings implying a fire-safety rating such as CM, CMR or CMP.”

The CCCA’s announcement further explained, “Any installation of multi-conductor communications cables made with copper-clad aluminum conductors behind walls or in enclosed spaces is likely to be a code violation in every jurisdiction in the United States. Jurisdictions in Canada, which often mirror those in the U.S., may similarly declare code violations.”

Peri added, “We are concerned that sales of cables made with copper-clad aluminum may be growing because they are much cheaper to produce than cable products designed to comply with industry standards and fire-safety codes. Copper-clad aluminum cables are another attempt by certain manufacturers to mislead contractors and users and risk public safety for the purpose of greater profits.”

The CCCA said it continues to research the prevalence of this problem, and is interested to hear from anyone who has lost out on a cabling project that ultimately was cabled with copper-clad aluminum. Peri can be reached by email at fperi@cccassoc.org and invites any interested party to submit information on cables with copper-clad aluminum conductors, are improperly labeled as Category 3, 5e, 6 or 6A, and bear a safety mark such as CM, CMX, CMR or CMP.

You can download the 8-page paper directly from the CCCA here.

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