Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

What is a grey import?

Please can you explain what grey marketing is. I have seen a new laptop at a fantastic price from a fancy looking store in one of our malls. However on investigation this laptop is not available in Africa. What does this mean for my guarantee? I have been told that the HP warranty centre will not assist me in the event of a problem within the 1 year guarantee period. Is this true and if so why are consumers not being protected or warned?

First things first. There is nothing illegal about these so-called “grey imports” so long as a store selling them doesn’t hide the fact.

Many reputable manufacturers produce items for specific markets such as ours. They vary the items according to local laws and conditions. For instance something produced for southern Africa might need slightly different technology compared to the same item being sold in a colder, wetter environment. A very good example is cars where the rules about headlights and seatbelts can vary in different parts of the world. The same goes for cellphones and computers.

The temptation for suppliers is that often the prices vary as well. They can buy items in bulk somewhere like the Middle East or Asia that are much cheaper than the versions produced for southern Africa and can make a lot more money by selling these items to us. However, in doing so they might be breaching the warranty that the manufacturer offers. That’s why you sometimes see items from reputable manufacturers that come with a much shorter warranty than you would expect. The warranty that comes with your HP laptop might only cover it in the region it was designed for.

You also have to ask yourself whether a warranty center here in Botswana will have the right parts and expertise to service or repair an item not designed for this region. That’s particularly the case with vehicles.

As I said, there’s nothing illegal about selling or buying a grey import but a store must be honest with you about it. The Consumer Protection Regulations make it clear that a store is not allowed to cause “a probability of confusion or misunderstanding as to its source, sponsorship, approval, or certification”. They’ll also get into trouble by “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”.

In other words a store must be perfectly honest about a grey import when they sell it to you. Then you can make an informed decision.

A broken sofa
Hi, guys please help. I bought a couch in June and I got a 30% discount because it was dirty. The sales lady told me it was because it was the last one they had. When it got home I noticed it had a tear towards the back and that it was shaking on the arm rests. I notified the shop the following day and I was told that there is nothing they can do as I accepted a discount! I'm so unhappy with it now and lately it has become worse after only two months. Is there really nothing I can do?

I don’t think you’re being fairly treated.

Yes, the 30% discount was a bargain and the store were treating you properly by reducing the price because the couch was dirty. I guess all it needed was a decent clean and you’d have something as good as new. However, unless they specifically mentioned the damage to the couch and you specifically agreed to accepting it in that state the store can’t just say you got a discount and have no rights as a result.

Section 17 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that a store is breaking the rules by “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. Section 17 (1) (f) also forbids them from “entering into a transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”.

If you signed something saying you accepted the couch and waived all your rights then you’re in trouble. If not, then they are. We’ll contact them for you to find out which it is!

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