I recently had a client ask me why our hire rate for Lite Panel 1×1 lights was high compared to other sources they have for kit hire. I was initially surprised because this client was paying one-third of what we charge: 50 dhs (US $14) per day as opposed to 150 dhs ($41) per day. I wondered how the other business could charge so little given what Lite Panels cost. The price of Lite Panels has just come down but they’re still not cheap – bi-colour 1x1s sell for about US $1,350 each with standard accessories in the U.S. (Earlier this year, we paid closer to US $2,000.)

Some minimal investigation into the difference in rates answered the question: the “Lite Panels” were not Lite Panels. They were a knock-off. You can probably guess which country they came from. And the knock-offs cost a fraction as much – US $300 – as real Lite Panels. Given the purchase price difference, the charge we make for real Lite Panels proved extremely fair.

We also found a number of flaws with the knock-off. The colour temperature of the light would change in the course of one set-up. The quality of the LED bulbs was clearly not as good. The build quality wasn’t as robust. It was clear to us that as part of a kit hire stock, these lights would be nowhere near as reliable as Lite Panels.

I’m sure there are Lite Panel copies that do deliver decent quality but a pressing issue remains: do we want to support manufacturers that produce counterfeit goods? From a legal standpoint, the answer is a resounding no. The sale and hire of counterfeit goods in the United Arab Emirates is illegal. From an ethical standpoint, the answer is also no. 

One final point. Reputable companies have developed lights similar to Lite Panels but different enough to secure their own patents. This is welcomed. Competition like this can lead to better products as opposed to knock-offs that only copy existing ones. We are looking into alternatives to the Lite Panel – and some cost less, although the recent price reduction in Lite Panels has narrowed the difference. So far we haven’t identified what we consider a better alternative. When we do, we’ll add it to our inventory. Meanwhile, we’re sticking with Lite Panels – and a hire rate that’s fair.