Re: One group of people are about to have a pretty big problem...
Similar problem here…
I'm in Brisbane Area WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network for those not familiar with the group) who do emergency communications for various community events. (In the UK there's an equivalent: RAYNET, and in the US: ARES)
One of those is the International Rally of Queensland, where we use packet radio with TNCs (terminal node controllers: modems basically). Most of us use Kantronics KPC3 TNCs which as typical of early 90's equipment, are RS-232 based.
Some of us have laptops that have on-board RS-232 but most use USB-serial converters.
Many in the group are electronically savvy, but not computer savvy. They might be good with antennas, many service their own equipment, and most know their way around a computer enough to get themselves out of trouble, but are not experts in computing.
I can see this being a major pain in the arse: as I pointed out above. Try picking up a piece of kit off the shelf at a shop, and tell me:
(1) what USB-serial device is in use and
(2) whether it's a genuine one.
About the only way I've found to find out about (1) is to download the driver from the shop's website (if it links to one) and go digging around in the various files for clues.
Price is not an indicator: The fakes can jack their prices up just as easily as anyone else. The same company can sell a "cheap" cable using knock-off ICs in one shop, and an "expensive" cable using the same chip, and people would be none the wiser.
Then there's the problem of USB-serial devices embedded in other equipment, which we get no say over and can do nothing about.
Return it to place of purchase you say? Good luck sending something back when it was bought from some eBay seller with a disposable account who has long since ditched their account and old contact details. Or explaining the problem to the dolly bird behind the counter at the Dick Smiths/Tandy/BestBuy/PCWorld/whatever store you bought it from.
This of course assumes you own the device: What if you're borrowing it? How do you explain a bricked device to them?
As to FTDI: I feel for them, but this is not the way. Refusing to operate with the device concerned would be better. Yes, the device stops working on their computer, but when it works on someone else's with an older driver, they can investigate and find a work-around to the problem.
Reputable suppliers would hear complaints and perhaps organise/issue a suitable driver for their counterfeit device: problem solved.
By making the device (temporarily) inoperable on all computers though, this is just going to fuel resentment which will work against FTDI.