Illegal and Black Market Faucets
in North America Updated: 09/24/21

Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, Overstock and a handful of other Internet retailers operate a continent-wide and very profitable black market in illegally imported fau­cets in the U.S. and to a lesser extent, in Canada. And, even though the importation, sale, or installation of these fau­cets flouts the laws of every state and Can­adi­an province and at least two U. S. federal statutes, they operate openly and with apparent impunity — largely free from interference by the authorities charged with keeping unsafe and unreliable fau­cets out of our homes.

Index to Illegal & Black Market Fau­cets Brand Reviews

These are the illegal faucet brands we are now tracking. This list changes from week to week as black market faucet brands come and go.

Click  Click on a brand name to display the ore review and rating report for that brand.

Download a more extensive list of contraband fau­cets sold on Ama­zon.com. These same fau­cets may also be sold on other websites such as Wayfair.com and Overstock.com.

Index to Our Reviews of the Legal and Safe Fau­cets Brands

These are the legal faucet brands we are now tracking that are certified free of lead and other toxic materials and safe to use in a drinking water sytem. Some of the fau­cets these brands sell are not very good fau­cets, but all of them sell safe fau­cets.

Click  Click on a brand name to display the ore review and rating report for that brand.

Not every faucet sold by general merchandising sites such as Ama­zon, Overstock, and Wayfair is an illegal, contraband faucet. Most are. But, some are not.

Many of these sites sell the major brands: brands are wholly reputable and completely legal to sell and install in the U.S. and Canada. Note 1

The problem is not with the established brands. You can be sure that name brands like are going to be certified safe and legal to sell in the U.S. and Canada.

Never buy a faucet you haven't heard of.
Unknown brands have of­ten justly earned their obscurity.

Jerry Francis Leonard, ME, LLB
Master Plumber & Steamfitter
1906-1995

Established companies are not going to risk the large civil penalties and even criminal sanctions that can result from selling uncertified fau­cets, or the resulting harm to their hard-won reputations for quality products and fair dealing.

It's the off-brands that are the problem and not even all of these. Some no-name brands are responsible and careful to ensure that their fau­cets are safe and legal. But, a large number simply ignore the rules for legally selling fau­cets in North America, including the requirement that the fau­cets be certified lead-free and drinking-water safe.

All of these contraband faucets are made overseas, mostly in China, but not all. A few are manufactured in Taiwan, India, Israel, Italy, and Viet Nam. So, the country of origin is not a sure indicator of a safe and legal faucet.

Determining which off-brand fau­cets are legal and safe and which are not is not a simple process.

Sellers of black market fau­cets do not identify their products as contraband. On the contrary, many claim their fau­cets are completely lawful, going so far, in our experience, as to produce altered and forged documentation when asked to prove the legitimacy of their products.

So, how do you avoid contraband fau­cets, and more importantly, why should you bother?.

Should you care whether a faucet complies with the complex web of U.S. or Can­adi­an laws and regulations? Isn't this just more government interference in our already over-regulated lives?

The short answer is no, it isn't. Which is not to say that some government regulations are unnecessary, intrusive, and a confounded nuisance. Fau­cets regulations are not among them, however.

Faucets can be dangerous. They can introduce all manner of toxic materials into your household drinking and cooking water: lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and other dangerous substances, all undetectable and all very hazardous to health even in small amounts. Note 2

No one, not even the most experienced plumber, can look at a faucet or a pretty picture of a faucet on Ama­zon or Wayfair and detect whether it contains toxic materials. Faucets containing hazardous amounts of known toxins look just like fau­cets that are perfectly harmless.

The only way to ensure that a faucet is not dangerous is to extensively test it in a licensed laboratory.

This is why testing is required by law and why fau­cets that have not been tested and certified free of toxins and other hazards are banned in every State and Province in North America.

The Rise of Black Market Fau­cets

Unfortunately, there are a growing number of untested, contraband fau­cets being sold in the U.S. and Canada. By far the greatest number are from mainland China where lead and other contaminants in faucets are all too common and all but unregulated.

These are a fairly new problem. As recently as 2010 there were almost none. The three companies selling most of the Asian fau­cets in the U.S. and Canada, imported (and still import) fully tested, lawful, good quality fau­cets.

In 2015, however, the situation began to change.

Ama­zon had been selling in China for years in competition with China's home-grown Ama­zon-like web retailer, Alibaba. But, it had not been able to loosen Alibaba's stranglehold on its home market. In 2013, for example, Alibaba's sales were estimated to be $420 million while Ama­zon reported sales in China of just $74 million.

But, then Ama­zon had a brainstorm. Instead of trying to compete in China, why not entice the Chinese to sell in North America where profit margins are higher and competition less aggressive by offering favorable rates and terms for Chinese merchants to sell on Ama­zon. So began a program that Ama­zon dubbed "Operation Panda."

Panda attracts Chinese sellers primarily through conferences held in large cities across China each year that attract droves of merchants looking to sell in North America.

The result has been successful beyond Ama­zon's wildest dreams. With the tacit encouragement of the Chinese government which is always looking for ways to increase exports, Chinese manufacturers flocked to the very friendly, almost unregulated, Ama­zon platform that enabled them to reach an untapped trove of millions of potential buyers in the U.S. and Canada.

The statistics tell the story. Note 3

The result has been a deluge of Chinese-made no-name brand goods of all sorts, including highly regulated products like fau­cets and showers.

Today, nearly 90% of the fau­cets sold on Ama­zon are illegal Note 4 and by far the vast majority of these originate in China. So many new brands are popping up each year that our reviewers cannot keep up even with just those that have made significant inroads into the North Amer­i­can marketplace.

Most of the reason for the explosive growth of no-name-brand imported fau­cets is the relative ease with which a Chinese faucet manufacturer can get started in the business of selling fau­cets in North America on Ama­zon and similar retail platforms.

They make selling in North America easy by providing the services that contraband sellers need: fully functioning international distribution systems that, for a small fee, relieves the Chinese faucet seller of the burden of handling advertising, promotion, order-taking, customer service, warehousing, and inventory control.

Black Market Faucet Websites

Without the retail platforms provided by online retailers such as Ama­zon, eOverstock, eBay, and Wayfair, the black market in illegal fau­cets would not exist at the enormous scale it has reached over the past decade. By providing easy access to third-party sellers without taking steps to ensure that the products being sold are legal for sale in the U.S., these hosting websites are largely responsible for creating the market in illegal fau­cets and other plubing products.

e-Bay logo

The common online selling models used in e-commerce today were largely developed by eBay and Ama­zon at the dawn of the Internet age.

The hosted third-party seller was the brainchild of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, who envisioned creating an online platform through which a person with an item to sell could easily connect with buyers interested in the product.

He modeled eBay, founded in 1995, on the venerable flea market in which seller and buyer negotiated a sale face to face. In Omidyar's internet version, face-to-face contact was replaced by an auction in which the seller offered a product and buyers bid on it during a fixed bidding period, with the highest bid winning. The seller paid a fee for hosting, advertising, and managing the sale.

The model attracted its original target: individual sellers offering mostly used items and collectibles. But, more important to eBay's success, it also attracted corporate sellers looking for novel ways to sell consumer products over the then very new World Wide Web. The auction model did not easily fit the needs of these commercial sellers, however, so eBay introduced eBay "stores" and the "Buy it Now" option in 2000.

Stores allowed commercial sellers to develop a brand identity on eBay, reinforced with buyer ratings. Buy-it-now permitted sellers to bypass the often slow-moving auction process to speed up the pace of sales and increase profits by charging higher, buy-it-now prices.

Ama­zon logo

Ama­zon pioneered the modified drop-ship model that allowed the company to appear to have a vast inventory of products for sale, while, in reality, stocking very few. In the eBay model, the host's involvement ended at the completion of the sale. The seller was (and still is) responsible for delivery after the sale and handling returns, exchanges, and warranty issues.

Ama­zon added fulfillment and after-sale customer service and made it an enormously licrative business.

Founded in 1995 by Jeff Bezos as an Internet bookseller, Ama­zon initially had fewer than 2,000 titles in inventory, filling most orders through agreements with third-party wholesalers and publishers to deliver books to Ama­zon only as they were purchased by Ama­zon customers. Ama­zon's receiving warehouse then shipped the products to the customers in Ama­zon packaging, leaving the customer with the impression that Ama­zon stocked a huge inventory.

After its initial public offering in 1997, Ama­zon used newly raised capital to expand rapidly into selling a vast array of consumer products, maintaining its deliver-when-sold model through fulfillment contracts with suppliers such as Target, Toys-r-us, Circuit City and Borders. Ama­zon sold the items but these contractors shipped them.

The company did not begin to host third-party sellers until 2000 when it launched Ama­zon Marketplace, in part to compete head-to-head with rival eBay. The idea of inviting retailers to sell competing products on Ama­zon was a risky concept at the time. No one had any idea how much impact the program would have on Ama­zon's direct sales.

It did affect direct sales but its impact was vastly outweighed by the enormous expansion of products offered for sale on the platform and the increased income derived from providing services to hosted sellers.

Ama­zon improved on eBay's hosted-seller model by adding fulfillment services made possible by the company's extensive network of warehouses and nationwide distribution, assets that eBay does not have. For a modest fee, Ama­zon takes care of warehousing, inventory control, picking, packaging, handling, shipping, and returns, making it possible for even very small retailers to sell efficiently and at a very low cost on the Ama­zon platform.

Walmart logo

Wal-Mart already operating a national warehousing and distribution system to serve brick and mortar stores, adopted the Ama­zon model almost unchanged, adding only an option of free in-store pickup, something not available to Ama­zon, which, until very recently, had no physical stores. Wal-Mart's online sales have seen steady growth.

Until 2018 Walmart sold very few black market fau­cets. In the past five years or so, it has gotten much laxer, embarking on its own program to attract Chinese sellers of all kinds to its online selling platform. One result is that Walmart now offers more contraband fau­cets for sale than any other internet site, second only to Ama­zon.

Wayfair logo

Like the early Ama­zon book store, Wayfair and Overstock appear to a potential customer as though they stock millions of items in inventory. In actual fact, they stock very few of the items they sell through the Wayfair and Overstock platforms.

Wayfair rarely handles the merchandise sold through its website. Its over 7,000 suppliers tend to be substantial businesses with their own inventory management and warehousing facilities.

Founded in 2002 as CSN Stores to sell storage furniture, by 2011, the company operated over 200 online niche websites, each selling a specific type of furnishing or household product such as cookware.com, strollers.com and luggage.com. The individual outlets other than AllModern and Josh & Main were consolidated into Wayfair by the end of 2012.

When an item is sold on Wayfair, the seller is notified to package the item in Wayfair packaging and ship it to the customer. The seller saves money on shipping by piggy-backing on Wayfair's favorable shipping rates with UPS, FedEx and the postal service.

Overstock logo

Overstock was founded in 1997 by current CEO Patrick M. Byrne to buy and sell surplus and returned merchandise as well as the inventories of failed companies, often at below wholesale prices.

These direct sales constitute about 15% of its business and very nearly all of its warehoused inventory. The other 85% of its business are what it calls "fulfillment partners", third-party sellers who warehouse their own inventory. These products also tend to be closeout lots. A company like Swatch that does not want to discount last year's watches on its main website alongside this year's pricier models may sell its outdated inventory through Overstock, which never handles the inventory. It just takes the order and instructs Swatch to ship the merchandise.

Overtock and its CEO have a checkered compliance history. The company was investigated in 2005 for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act and paid a multi-million dollar fine in 2017 for false advertising that knowingly "misled customers".

The model has, for the most part, been successful. Overstock's initial public offering in 2002 raised $37 million in new capital. The company's 2015 revenue of $1.6 billion capped a six-year record of steady revenue growth since it first reached the billion-dollar mark in 2010.

These are not the only culprits, of course. we have found contraband fau­cets on plumbing and builder websites like Home Depot, Lowes, and even on Ferguson Enterpries websies like Build.com and FaucetsDirect but these are rare, and once we notify the company of the problem, the fau­cets either get certified or disappear from the store. Of the big-box lumber stores, only Menards has avoided selling illegal faucets.

But, while the main offender is Ama­zon, other sites that host third-party sellers are also guilty. These include, but by no means are limited to Overstock, Wayfair, and Walmart.

Ama­zon, in particular, is the top choice of Chinese sellers. It is so efficient that a faucet can be advertised, displayed, sold, packaged, shipped, tracked, and delivered for a cost that is only a little more than an independent seller would typically pay for shipping alone.

The hosted seller does not need a website, a warehouse, bookkeeping, a sales staff, customer service, or even a telephone number — saving most of its start-up costs and most of its operating expenses.

Being listed on Ama­zon, or Wayfair is also an easy road to brand respectability.

Rather than slowly building up a brand's reputation through advertising and word-of-mouth over a period of years if not decades, a listing on a major hosting site alongside brings with it instant brand credibility not available from a stand-alone website, and a giant boost in buyer confidence in the reliability of the third-party seller.

Why? Because we, as buyers, are confident that Ama­zon, Way­fair, and Over­ stock carefully screen the products sold on their websites, eliminating the illegal and unsafe.

(In fact, as we will see later in this article, that confidence is misplaced. None of these hosting websites actively vet their fau­cets.)

It is also a lot easier to get found. Ra­ther than pains­tak­ingly tweaking a website to work up to and keep a coveted first-page placement in Goo­gle searches, the hosting site takes care of that for you. A listing on Ama­zon or Overstock helps ensure that potential customers can easily find your fau­cets among the thousands for sale on the world wide web.

Of course, hosting sites don't do all these nice things for free. For them, it's a very lucrative business.

Ama­zon's third-party "marketplace" sellers produce about half of Ama­zon's annual sales, contributing significantly to the company's sustained growth that resulted in a net income $ 21.33 billion in 2020, almost double the $11.6 billion income of its prior year.

The New York Times Note 5 estimates that more than 50% of Ama­zon's revenues are derived from selling services rather than selling products. A major part of the services it provides are to hosted marketplace sellers of which 25% are based in China.

China-Based
Hosting Websites

A selling option not available to the North Amer­i­can-based faucet companies is selling over a China-based hosting website. Chinese hosting sites are closed to all but Chinese sellers.

These sites have scratched out a foothold in North America, promoting their "wholesale" and "factory direct" prices. Some have been operating for several years but have been little noticed until very recently and still do not have much recognition, trust, or market penetration on this side of the mare Pacifica. But, some of these are monster enterprises, and thoroughly entrenched in much of the rest of the world.

Lightinthebox logo Lightinthebox, for example, is aimed at buyers in Europe and North America where prices and profit margins are much higher than on its home field in China.

It started out in 2007 selling discounted wedding gowns and is still heavily skewed toward women's wear. But, it has steadily expanded its offerings to include items such as fau­cets and bath wares.

Its IPO in 2013 raised $86 million, even though it has never had a profitable year. It makes most of its money in Europe, where it is a minor powerhouse. It allows only Chinese sellers — European and Amer­i­can sellers need not apply. Its North Amer­i­can penetration remains shallow. Canada and U.S. sales produced only 19% of the company's 2013 revenues compared with Europe which generated 62%. But, it is working to improve its North Amer­i­can market performance, including a recently established fulfillment center in the U.S. for faster delivery times to North Amer­i­can buyers.

We have not found a single faucet on LightInTheBox that is legal to sell or install in the U.S. or Canada. Some are identified as certified to U.S./Can­adi­an standards but these claims have uniformly proven to be false.

Ali Express logo None of the fau­cets sold on AliExpress or DHGate are certified to U.S. and Can­adi­an standards or legal to sell or install here.

AliExpress is an Ama­zon-like e-tail shopping mall selling Chinese products to consumers outside China. Launched in 2010. It is already one of the largest Internet retailers in the world. It's parent, Alibaba Group, controlled by founder Ma Bun (AKA Jack Ma), is an experienced e-commerce Leviathan that also operates the even more massive business-to-business website, Alibaba.com, and two Internet shopping malls for Chinese consumers: Taobao and the more upscale TMall.

According to the Wall St. Journal*, Alibaba handles 80% of China's online shopping and its gross sales in 2013 were $248 billion (US), one-third more than Ama­zon and e-Bay combined. Alibaba's initial public offering in 2014 was the biggest in history, raising $25 billion U.S. dollars.

Only merchants based in China are allowed to sell on the website.

DHGate logo Thes same restriction applies on DHGate, no foreigners allowed. The company started in 2004 as a business-to-business portal connecting small and medium-size Chinese manufacturers to overseas buyers has very quickly become a source for consumer purchases by adding retail-friendly features such as easy international credit card payments, prices stated in U.S. dollars and U.S.-based product distribution. By 2015 it listed nearly 40 million products from 1.2 million Chinese suppliers.

Until 2015, Chinese sites were the primary source of untested black-market fau­cets in North America. Almost all of the fau­cets sold on these sites are untested and completely illegal to sell in the U.S. or Canada. The problem of contraband fau­cets, however, was a minor blip. Taken together the illegal sellers made up just a tiny fraction of the 6% market share claimed by Asian-made fau­cets.


*Twice the Size of Ama­zon: Alibaba Is Ready for Its Close-Up. Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company,, Inc. 16 Apr 2014. Web. 5 Sep 2021.

Chinese faucet sellers descended on the North American market in two waves.

First came the Chinese traders and brokers. These companies were already familiar with exporting goods to North America and found an easier and cheaper path to North American customers being offered by domestic hosting websites. They began selling fau­cets, slowly at first, then came the flood.

Ama­zon, Wayfair, Overstock, and, to a letter extent, eBay are where North Amer­icans shop. These sites are trusted online retailers and the go-to e-commerce stores for hordes of U.S. and Can­adi­an consumers. Over 300 million Amer­icans shop on Ama­zon alone, well over 90% of the adult population of the country.

Third-party sellers cloak themselves in the hosting site's respectability, helping ensure buyer confidence in the strange new faucet brands they sell, a benefit they cannot get from sites located in Asia.

In a second wave, Chinese faucet factories entered the market as direct sellers, bypassing the traditional Chinese and North American middlemen.

Before Ama­zon's Operation Panda, only a few Asian faucet manufacturers sold their products directly to North Amer­i­can consumers. Rath­er, they concentrated on making fau­cets and faucet components for North Amer­i­can companies that sold the fau­cets under familiar brand names such as

Fewer than two dozen major Asian factories had virtually monopolized the U.S. and Can­adi­an markets. The larger scale of Chinese manufacturers like as well as Taiwanese factories such as NCIP enabled them to offer pricing and service that smaller factories could not match..

Only a very few tried to penetrate the market with a new and unfamiliar brand. The most successful of these was It began selling its fau­cets in the U.S. in 2000. It was ultimately successful, but not without years of struggle.

Operation Panda introduced Chinese manufacturers to the idea that they could gain easy entry to the giant North Amer­i­can faucet market through U.S. based hosting websites without the cost and bother of establishing a physical presence in the U.S. or Canada, the complexity of linking up with a domestic distributor, or the pesky nuisance managing their North Amer­i­can inventories, maintaining a website, Note 6 or handling the sales process.

As a result, the number of off-brand fau­cets offered on U.S.-based hosting websites has increased explosively in just a decade.

In 2010 just a dozen or so of these faucet brands were being sold by third-party retailers on Ama­zon. Today most of the sink fau­cets shown on Ama­zon are offered through independent, hosted sellers, often operating as what Ama­zon calls "storefronts", selling preciously unknown brand names such as to name just a few.

There are two major problems with these third-party off-brand fau­cets:

Fau­cets Testing and Certification

Because of their potential for harm to persons and the environment, fau­cets, like automobiles, are strictly regulated products in the U.S. and Canada; subject to what are called "mandatory standards".

You cannot sell a new car that does not meet minimum emission and safety standards. The same is true of fau­cets.

Not just anything with a shiny finish used to control the flow of water can be legally sold as a faucet. It must first be tested and certified by one of seven accredited testing organizations Note 7 to meet North Amer­i­can safety and reliability standards that are among the strictest in the world.

There are three basic faucet standards in effect throughout North America:

ANSI/NSF 372: Lead Content

The ANSI/NSF 372 standard is very strict. It permits no more than a "weighted average" of 0.25% (one-quarter of 1 percent) lead in the parts of a faucet that come in contact with water. This is often called the "content standard".

Lead content in brass can be measured in several ways, most of which destroy the test sample during testing. The most common non-destructive method, and easiest to use, is X-ray fluorescence in which high energy electrons striking a brass sample cause it to emit x-rays. A detector identifies the elements in the brass by analyzing the energy spectra of the x-rays, showing the results on a screen.

Early detectors were the size of a small car and required considerable expertise to interpret the results, usually displayed on a graph. Modern detectors are hand-held and display the results as numeric values requiring no interpretation.

ANSI/NSF 61: Drinking Water Safety

The ANSI/NSF 61 safe drinking water standard restricts the amount of lead and a wide variety of other harmful contaminants that may be absorbed by water as it passes through a faucet. Note 9 The limit of lead absorption is a maximum of 5 parts per billion (ppb).

To determine the level of absorption of lead and other contaminants, fau­cets undergo a rigorous three-week course of testing in which the fau­cets are exposed to typical household water formulations, including various blends of mineral-rich water, designed to extract specific types of contaminants. If any are found in concentrations above what is considered a safe level, the faucet fails and is not certified.

A faucet that passes is as free of lead and other toxic materials as current technology allows.

The lead and toxic materials standards in other countries are much less rigorous.

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) has been working toward a common European standard for several years but has found it difficult to find agreement among its member countries with widely varying water systems. The strictest national standard is probably Germany's which allows 10 ppb of lead in drinking water, twice the North Amer­i­can legal limit.

In China, where most black market fau­cets originate, testing standards (GB18145) do not include a lead contamination limit for fau­cets, and fau­cets sold in China's home market often contain dangerous amounts of lead.

Lead in brass makes the material more malleable and easier to form. Its safer substitute, bismuth, is ten times more expensive, so Chinese manufacturers tend to prefer brass with a relatively high lead content to keep costs down.

Shi Hongwei, Deputy Director of Quality Supervision for China's National Building Material Industry, Inspection and Testing Center promised in 2013 that China would implement standards for heavy metal content in plumbing fixtures in 2014. But, 2014 has come and gone without action by the Chinese government. Note 10

ASME A112.18.1/CSA 125.1: Fau­cets Durability, Safety, and Reliability

The North Amer­i­can reliability, safety, and durability standards contained in ASME A112.18.1/CSA 125 are also very rigorous.

Machines like this put a faucet trough and on-hot-cold-off test cycle 500,000 times to confirm its operating durability. The test, which takes three days to complete, is equivalent to average kitchen use of about 70 years.

While ASME/NSF 61 and 372 are intended to protect you against harmful substances that may pass from the faucet to the ware flowing through the faucet, ASME A112.18.1 looks at the mechanical safety of the fau­cets. For example, it tests for thermal stability to ensure that once the water temperature is set, the faucet maintains that temperature. It should not change the temperature on its own, unbidingly spewing out scalding hot water after being set to lukewarm.

Faucets are required to function without leaking at pressures of 20 to 125 (137895 to 861845 Pa) at temperatures between 40°F and 160°F (4.44 to 71.1°C). The flow rate of the faucet may not exceed 2.2 gallons per minute (8.33 liters per minute) at a water pressure of 60 psi (413685 Pa).

The faucet must be designed to be serviced from the top of the faucet without being uninstalled.

Sprays that can be pulled out or down far enough to touch the water in a sink must include backflow prevention in their design so contaminated sink water cannot be drawn back into the household drinking water system.

A faucet is tested for corrosion resistance. It must show no effects after prolonged contact with soap and household cleaners or mild abrasives. Its bending strength is tested to ensure that it cannot be deformed under even rigorous household use.

Fau­cets valves and cartridges are tested for long life and durability. The standard test requires operating the faucet through 500,000 on/hot/cold/off cycles under 60 psi of water pressure without a single failure. At about two cycles per second, the test takes three full days to complete.

Five hundred thousand cycles are equivalent to about 70 years of ordinary kitchen fau­cet use, which means that the faucet is very robust.

But, some manufacturers voluntarily test their fau­cets to even stricter standards. The new Diamond Seal Technology® ceramic cartridge used in Masco's fau­cets were tested to four million cycles while under development in Germany – equivalent to about 700 years and 560 years respectively of use in an average kitchen.

In other countries, the standard is much less rigorous. The European (EN 817) and Chinese (GB18145) requirement is just 70,000 cycles.

The Consequences of Failing to Certify Faucets

Failure to certify a faucet's compliance with U.S. and Can­adi­an faucet standards can have some serious legal consequences.

The first is that the faucet is not lawful for installation in any drinking water system in the U.S. or Canada. Every plumbing code in effect in North Amer­i­can requires that only certified fau­cets may legally be used in a household water system. Note 11

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act limits water flow from sink fau­cets to a maximum of 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM) at 60 PSI, and requires each faucet be tested to by an accredited testing organization to determine whether it meets the flow limit, and its compliance certified by filing a statement with the Department of Energy. The Act prohibits fau­cets that have not been tested and certified from being "distributed in commerce" in the U.S. Note 12

The penalty for importing, selling, or offering to sell a fau­cet that does not meet maximum flow limits or that has not been certified is $440.00 per day for each non-compliant fau­cet distributed in commerce.

The Department of Commerce can look back to the day the fau­cet was first placed in commerce in the U.S. and assess retroactive penalties of several hundred thousand dollars. For a second "willful" offense, the penalty is criminal prosecution, a $50,000 fine, and six months imprisonment for each offense.

Each day a non-compliant fau­cet is offered for sale in the U.S. is a separate offense. A seller that offers 10 illegal fau­cets for sale for ten days commits 100 separate offenses, so the penalties can pile up quickly.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act has similar provisions. A faucet that does not meet the lead-free standard cannot lawfully be "introduced into" commerce in the U.S.which means that it is illegal to sell the faucet or offer the faucet for sale. The statute provides substantial penalties for doing so.

Similar restrictions apply in Canada. Can­adi­an law prohibits the "sale or lease" of uncertified fau­cets in that Country. Note 13

If the federals want to get really nasty, they can also charge mail and wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. §63 and 18 U.S.C. §1343 as these "instrumentalities of interstate commerce" are typically used to "facilitate" violations of the Energy Policy and Safe Drinking Water Acts. The penalty for mail and wire fraud is more serious: up to 20 years imprisonment, and each phone call, letter, e-mail, or Internet transaction is a separate offense.

At the state level, every sale of an uncertified faucet is statutory fraud as well as false advertising and a deceptive business practice, all of which can result in some very serious jail time and hefty fines.

California laws are more restrictive than the federal laws that govern the rest of the country. In California, the maximum flow rate from a kitchen sink faucet is 1.8 gallons per minute (gpm) and 1.2 gpm from a lavatory faucet. To be sold in California, a faucet must be certified by the California Department of Energy. Selling an unapproved faucet is an offense that nets the seller a fine of $2,500.

Georgia is even tougher. Selling or installing an uncertified faucet in the Peach State is a crime that may result in a hefty fine and jail time for repeat offenders.

Other states and Can­adi­an Provinces have similar laws, and many impose stiff penalties for violations.

So, one would think with all of these hefty legal consequences looming, third-party sellers would be a little cautious about selling uncertified fau­cets. But, the problem is that many, if not most, of the illegal sellers, are out of reach, safely ensconced behind the Bamboo Curtain, where U.S. and Can­adi­an law enforcement cannot easily get to them. And, both the EPA which enforces the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Department of Energy, responsible for the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, have been starved of funds by Congress, and simply do not have the resources needed to go after these violators. So, the legal risk to sellers of illegal fau­cets is minimal.

For hosting sites, the situation is a little different. U.S.-based sites and Chinese sites with facilities or operations in North America can easily be found by law enforcement and probably can be held liable for the illegal fau­cets sold on their sites. They are in the position of a flea market operator who knows that illegal goods are being sold but turns a blind eye to the practice. Their liability is called "intermediary" or "secondary" liability (as opposed to the third-party seller's "primary" liability). Secondary liability arises when a hosting website facilitates illegal sales ("contributory liability") or can control illegal sales but does not take reasonable measures to do so ("vicarious liability"). Generally, a website operator that makes a "good faith" effort to prevent the sale of illegal merchandise will not be held liable, even if the good-faith effort fails.

Unfortunately, with most of these hosting websites, there is no indication of any effort, good faith, or otherwise. Of the websites we examined for this report, only Costco and Sam's Club seem to have taken some of the steps necessary to verify that fau­cets sold by third-party hosted vendors are certified and legal. Walmart also did so at tone time but does so no longer.

Most U.S.-Based hosting websites already have written policies Note 14 of some kind prohibiting the sale of illegal and unsafe goods, in no small part designed to reassure customers that the site's products are safe to buy. Ama­zon's policy, for example, is the following:

Products offered for sale on Ama­zon must comply with all laws and regulations and with Ama­zon's policies. The sale of illegal, unsafe, or other restricted products listed on these pages, including products available only by prescription, is strictly prohibited. (Emphasis supplied)

But, while the sale of contraband is "strictly prohibited", the ban is not strictly enforced when it comes to fau­cets. In fact, we have found no evidence that it is enforced at all.

Hosting sites evidence very little if any effort to ensure that fau­cets for sale do, in fact, "comply with all laws and regulations". If these rules were merely enforced, the black market faucet problem would largely disappear overnight.

The sites certainly have the ability to enforce the bans. Many illegal products are effectively banned: homemade music CDs, firearms, prescription pharmaceuticals, and illicit drugs, to name just a few. But many other illegal products, like contraband fau­cets, are ignored. Third-party faucet sellers are not required to demonstrate in any way that their fau­cets are legal for sale or installation in the U.S. or Canada in order to be listed for sale on hosting websites.

It's not that the effort would be particularly burdensome. It takes about five minutes. Most plumbing supply websites do a good job of keeping illegal fau­cets from being sold on their venues, as do some general merchandising hosting sites. It is just a matter of requiring sellers to produce listing certificate identification numbers, then confirming the certification online. So, it's entirely possible to ban illegal fau­cets if even a minimum effort is made.

After-Sale Support: Warranty and Replacement Parts

"Where can I get parts?" is the most common question we see on Ama­zon, eBay and other hosting sites about broken off-brand fau­cets. The short answer is: "You can't. There are no parts."

Most hosted sellers do not provide any warranty on the fau­cets they sell. But, even if they do it is not worth much. A warranty is a promise by the seller to help fix a broken faucet, usually by providing a replacement or the parts necessary to do so. But, a seller's promise is only as reliable as the seller, and good only for as long as the seller still exists. Hosted sellers are notorious for not honoring their warranties and seem to disappear with alarming frequency. Few last as long as two years. They almost never have a replacement parts system of any consequence. For the first year or so they can scavenge parts of other fau­cets but when the fau­cets are no longer on the shelf, there is no longer a source for parts.

So, if your off-brand Ama­zon or Wayfair faucet starts to leak one year, five years or ten years down the road you are unlikely to get any help from the third-party seller, even if the seller still exists, and even if you can find it (and good luck with that! Even our experienced researchers cannot identify many of them, and they know how).

Many third-party sellers are virtual businesses that may not have an actual legal existence. They are often little more than a name in a digital file. The requirements to become a hosted seller are very minimal: just a business name, a tax-ID number, a credit card or electronic account, a telephone number, and a product to sell are usually all that is required. A physical address, an actual bank account, or even a website are not usually needed. So, finding a hosted seller can often be impossible except through a subpoena to the hosting website.

Fau­cets retailers are usually not set up to provide after-sale support. They rely on faucet manufacturers for, warranty, replacement parts, and technical support. With most North Amer­i­can-based faucet companies, this works very well. If you have a problem with a faucet that you bought at Harvey's Hardware Heaven, you don't call Harvey, you call 1-800-BUY-MOEN to reach Moen's technical support hotline to get it solved. If you need parts under warranty, the Moen provides you with the parts — not the retail store.

If the faucet manufacturer is not located in North America then the product support solution gets a little trickier. Major foreign faucet manufacturers that sell in North America usually operate through a local subsidiary that provides the necessary support for North Amer­i­can buyers.

to name just a few of many, all handle post-sale support issues through customer service organizations based in the U.S. or Canada.

Certain Asian faucet manufacturers have established service centers in North America to handle back-end support for the retail chains that buy their fau­cets for private branding.

both provide warranty and parts support for the U.S. and Can­adi­an retail stores that buy and re-brand their fau­cets. These include well-known retailers such as

The Can­adi­an hardware giant, RONA, which buys its store-brand fau­cets from several smaller Asian manufacturers has taken a different approach. Instead of providing post-sale service itself or relying on its several manufacturers to supply parts and take care of warranty issues, it simply hired a third-party warranty service company, Me­can­air, to support its Asian-made fau­cets. A call to RONA's warranty number connects directly to Me­can­air, which stocks and inventories the parts needed to service Rona's store-brand fau­cets.

Unfortunately, however, the Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers providing off-brand fau­cets to hosted sellers do not maintain parts operations in North America and are not set up to offer post-sale support from their factories in China or Taiwan. If you could find out which Asian company manufactured a particular off-brand faucet, contacting the manufacturer would be a total waste of time. As far as they are concerned it is up to the retailer to arrange for product and parts support. Once they deliver the fau­cets to a freight forwarder, their job is done.

The upshot is that if you need warranty service or replacement parts you are usually out of luck. Calling the hosting website's customer service is no help at all. They don't provide warranty service for their hosted sellers and don't keep replacement parts. So, if you need to make a warranty claim, buy a part, or just get advice on installing your new faucet, you are usually out of luck. The hosting company cannot help you.

How to Buy a Safe, Reliable Fau­cets

Surprisingly, while these fau­cets are illegal to sell in the U.S. or Canada, they are not illegal to buy. There are no penalties for owning an illegal faucet. If you want to buy one as a decorative accent to display on your fireplace mantel, it's perfectly legal to do so.

A problem arises, however, if you decide to install it in your household plumbing system. While not illegal to own, uncertified fau­cets are illegal to install in a drinking water system. They violate every plumbing code in effect in North America. Your plumber will probably not install it. And, if you are caught with one at your kitchen sink, you will probably be required to remove it or pay a fine, then remove it. Some localities go so far as to award jail time for violations.

Your insurance company will also be unhappy. Many will not pay for damage caused by an illegal faucet. So, if your bargain brand, no-name Overstock faucet leaks and floods your kitchen, you are on your own replacing your floor and cabinets.

So, where can you buy a faucet that is legal to sell in the U.S. and Canada?


1. Not every "name-brand" is certified, however.
  • The safest course if buying a Signature Hardware faucet is to insist on a copy of the listing certificate that shows the faucet by model name or number and Signature Hardware as the primary or additional brand.
2. The toxic materials of most concern are the heavy metals: Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, and Mercury.
Lead is by some accounts more dangerous than either cadmium or arsenic. The maximum acceptable level of contamination in drinking water set by the EPA is 5 parts per billion. "There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe." ("Lead Poisoning and Health: Fact Sheet", World Health Organization. Updated Jul 2016. World Health Organization. Web 22 Jul 2016.) The EPA's maximum contamination level is about what current technology can achieve but expect it to be set lower as technology improves. Lead has serious consequences for the health of children, attacking the brain and central nervous system causing developmental and learning disorders and, in severe cases, dementia, coma, and even death.
Cadmium is a known hazard to health that even in small amounts and can result in kidney, liver, and blood damage. The most common source in drinking water results from corrosion of galvanized pipes but it is also present in small amounts in copper, a common constituent of brass. Brass is the most common material used to make fau­cets. There is no known "safe" amount but the EPA allows a "maximum contaminant level" of 0.005 milligrams per liter (mg/l) in drinking water which is equivalent to 5 parts per billion (ppb). The World Health Organization's guideline is a more stringent 0.003 mg/l (3 ppb). Fau­cets testing ensures that cadmium is not introduced into the water passing through a faucet at more than the maximum allowed EPA level of 6 ppb. ("Cadmium in Drinking-water, Background Document for Development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality", World Health Organization, 2011. "Cadmium". n.p., Water Qualify Association. Water Quality Association. n.d. Web 15 Bun 2016.)
Arsenic is limited to a maximum contaminant level of not more than 10 parts per billion in any drinking water system, public or private ("Drinking water Standard for Arsenic", Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Protection Agency. n.d. 17 Bun 2016.). Arsenic "is a known carcinogen associated with skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer. Dermatological, developmental, neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine effects are also evident." ("The Broad Scope of Health Effects from Chronic Arsenic Exposure: Update on a Worldwide Public Health Problem". Environmental Health Perspectives. n.d. National Institutes of Health. Web 16/jun 2016.)
Mercury in water is found in the form of water-soluble mercuric and mercurous salts rather than pure (elemental) mercury in its metallic form. However, metallic mercury is used in many industrial processes and can be present on new fau­cets that have not been thoroughly cleaned. The amount of soluble mercury allowed in drinking water is 2 parts per billion – an amount so small it is barely measurable. Mercury accumulates in the body, primarily in the kidneys. Long-term exposure can cause kidney damage for which there is no cure other than a transplant.
3. Ama­zon does not disclose the number of its third party sellers. Thies figures are estimates made from outside the company by various sources, Including Statista and Jungle Scout, companies that keep track of such things.
4. Based on surveys conducted between May 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021 by StarCraft Media, LLC. The percentage of fau­cets found to be illegal for importation, sale, or installation in the U.S. and/or Canada by reason of non-compliance with laws and regulations that govern the construction and safety of fau­cets in North America were:
U.S.-Based Virtual Stores
China-based Virtual Stores
5. Wingfield, Nick. "Ama­zon's Cloud Business Lifts Its Profit to a Record." New York Times. The New York Times Company. 28 Apr 2016. Web. 28 Jun 2016.
6. Ama­zon sellers are encouraged to create their own websites to enhance an appearance of legitimacy. Some do mostly bare-bones sites that serve little purpose other than simply having a website. Most do not.
7. The seven organizations testing for compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1, NSF 372 and NSF 61/9 are:
International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO-RT): Authorizes the use of the "UPC" mark and shield logo on certified fau­cets. The "UPC" mark was imprinted on some Signature Hardware fau­cets we examined but IAPMO-RT spokespersons assured us that the fau­cets are not certified by IAPMO-RT and use of the mark is not authorized.
International Codes Council - Evaluation Service (ICC-ES): Authorizes the use of the "ICC-ES" mark and logo on certified fau­cets.
CSA Group (CSA): Formerly the Can­adi­an Standards Association, authorizes the use of the "CSA" mark and logo on certified fau­cets.
Intertek Testing Services NA (ETL): Authorizes the use of the "ETL-US" mark and logo on fau­cets certified to U.S./Can­adi­an standards.
NSF International (NSF): Formerly the National Sanitary Foundation, authorizes the use of the "NSF" mark and logo on certified fau­cets. The organization tests primarily for compliance with ANSI/NSF 372 and ANSI/NSF 61 but rarely for compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL): Authorizes the use of the "UL" mark and logo on certified fau­cets.
Water Quality Association. (WQA): Authorizes the use of the "WQA" mark and logo on certified fau­cets.

For more information on how fau­cets are regulated for safety and reliability, see Keeping Faucets Safe.

8. NSF 372 is not actually a standard per se but a specification of the testing methods that must be used to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and the various lead-free laws of California, Vermont, Maryland, and Louisiana, and with all plumbing codes in the U.S. and Canada. However, NSF 372 is often treated as a standard. For example, IAPMO, the organization that tests and certifies most fau­cets, issues a separate certificate for passing NSF 372 tests. In testing for compliance with ANSI/NSF 61, the NSF 372 testing method is applied, so a faucet that is certified compliant with NSF 61 has been tested and found to comply with the 0.25% lead limit standard. See: e.g.: "Explaining NSF 61 and NSF 372 for Plumbing Systems." QuantumFlow. n.p. 1 Apr 2014. Web. 5 Jul 2016.
8. Lead is just one possible contaminant. Heavy metals found in fau­cets other than lead are arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and selenium. (See Note 2, above) Each of these has a maximum safe level which is measured during the tests. Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the maximum level of chrome allowed in a faucet is 100 parts per billion. Regulations do not require that testing distinguish between harmless forms of chromium and hexavalent chromium (Cr-6) which is a known carcinogen. However, voluntary tests such as those conducted by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) which supplies drinking water to Maryland's suburban counties bordering Washington D.C., have found levels of Cr-6 in water passing through its water system to be less than 2 ppb — a negligible amount. But, in Chicago, the level was 18 ppb. California and several cities have passed legislation limiting Cr-6 to not more than 10 ppb. This is not yet, however, the national standard.
10. "Taps Become Heavy Metal Content of Peremptory Norms". Huao Sanitary Ware News. 17 Mar 2016. Huoa Sanitary Ware. Web. 20 Jul 2016.)
11. Certification for compliance with ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 and NSF 61/9 is required by all state and provincial plumbing codes in use in North America.
International Plumbing Code, Section 424.1 - Faucets and Fixtures, Approval: Faucets and fixture fittings shall conform to ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1. Faucets and fixture fittings that supply drinking water for human ingestion shall conform to the requirements of NSF 61, Section 9.
Uniform Plumbing Code, Section 403.3.2.1: The following standards are adopted as plumbing material, performance requirements, and labeling standards for plumbing fixture fittings. Faucets, aerators, and shower heads shall meet either the ANSI/ASME standard or the CSA standard: ASME A112.18.1, CSA B125-1....Fixture fittings covered under the scope of ANSI/NSF 61 shall be in accordance with the requirements of ANSI/NSF 61.
National Standard Plumbing Code: Section 3.4.6: "Limits on Lead Content: "materials used in the potable water supply system, including fau­cets and valves, shall not contain more than an average of 0.25 percent lead" and "drinking water system components shall comply with the lead leachate requirements .... of NSF 61.9". ASME A12.18.1/CSA 125.1 is identified in Table 3.1.3: as the safety and reliability standard for fau­cets. Published by the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors since 1933, Louisiana and New Jersey are the only two states still using this model code as the basis for their state plumbing codes.
National Plumbing Code of Canada: 2.2.10.6. Supply and Waste Fittings 1) Supply fittings shall conform to a) ASME A112.18.1/CAN/CSA-B125.1 "Plumbing Supply fittings"...."
For a complete list of the plumbing codes adopted by each state, see Keeping Faucets Safe.
12. To distribute a product in commerce means "to sell in commerce, to import, to introduce or deliver for introduction into commerce, or to hold for sale or distribution after introduction into commerce." 42 U.S.C. § 6291(16). The Environmental Protection Agency responsible for the enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act interprets "introduce into commerce" as used in Section 1417 to cover not only the initial offering of products for sale but also the sale or distribution from an inventory of products." (WSG #129, Sept. 24, 1998, at 2).
13. See e.g. Régie du bâtiment du Québec: "After October 2, 2008, the sale or lease of materials, devices or equipment intended for a plumbing facility that have not been certified or approved by an accredited body is prohibited." (Emphasis supplied)
14. All US-Based hosting websites have a written policy prohibiting the sale of illegal products:
Ama­zon: "The sale of illegal, unsafe, or other restricted products listed on these pages, including products available only by prescription, is strictly prohibited."
eBay: Requires hosted sellers to "make sure that the sale of your item complies with all laws."