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Hidden cost of grey gadgets

Although grey market devices may cost less initially, CRAIG FLEISCHER explains that the consumer may end up spending more for them in the long run.

The grey market isn’t populated with suspicious merchants in long overcoats who are generally avoided. Instead, it is subtly represented with ‚Äògrey products’ that are easily accessible. Unfortunately, these goods come with a hidden price tag of which few consumers are aware, until it is too late.

Grey goods are products that have been sourced and brought into the country by circumventing official sales and distribution channels. This can be through online or offline retailers sourcing their own stock internationally, individual consumers purchasing products while travelling or consumers purchasing from global e-commerce websites. While grey items are not illegal in South Africa, they are not the best choice for local consumers.

Yes, the price tag might be lower, but in the long run customers who buy grey imports risk paying far more for their latest gadget. Consider what happens if the device is damaged or faulty. The device is not covered by the manufacturer’s in-country warranty and product agreements, and so cannot simply be repaired or replaced locally.

Buyers of grey goods risk footing the bill for local support therefore wasting both time and money. Worst case scenario, nothing can be done and the end result is simply a very expensive and pretty paperweight. It is usually only when a service requirement surfaces that the frustration is truly felt by the consumer, and filters down into other areas as well. Software upgrades are made available on mobile devices, only once tested in conjunction with local operators on the South African networks, and these might not optimally function on a grey product, and the devices themselves don’t work as efficiently on local networks as their official counterparts.

A local purchase of a Samsung mobile device through authorised channels ensures the quality of the product, which will also be covered by a 24 month warranty policy and ensure a device that is compatible with the local networks.

Through a partnership with AlwaysOn, every Samsung device bought in South Africa receives 1GB of free Wi-Fi data every month for 12 months, purchased through approved outlets. Additional value-added services such as Accidental Damage from Handling (ADH) come standard with the Galaxy S4, Note 3 and Grand Neo, offering screen and liquid damage repairs to the device at no extra charge. If the consumer decided to purchase grey products, these benefits would not be experienced and enjoyed.

Customers can ensure the authenticity of their products by purchasing through channels such as Samsung Experience Stores, the Samsung online store (, South African network operators or leading retailers. Dealers not certified by Samsung cannot deliver any warranty – as such, consumers have to be careful when an online website offers a ‚Äòdeal’ that sounds too good to be true. The product may have quality snags and the warranty policy might be void.

Products bought through official channels carry benefits which outweigh the initial small cost saving of a grey product. On the surface, the grey market may look like a solution for the budget conscious shopper, but it ultimately costs much more in the long run when the user considers the time and frustration involved with incompatibility, service or warranty related incidents.

Samsung Customer Care Centres will assist with repairs on grey (but genuine) products although the cost will be for the customer’s account. Parts may differ from what Samsung SA has available which could delay the process which presents a further inconvenience to the customer. Consumers should also be aware of counterfeit goods where products are branded as the real thing, but are in fact fake replicas. Counterfeit goods do not carry a manufacturer’s warranty and no service support is available on these devices.

* Craige Fleischer is the director of mobile communications at Samsung Electronics SA

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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