The Catch with Grey Imports

Table Tennis Robots Grey Imports

Grey imports (a.k.a. ‘gray imports’) refers to retailers or sellers importing goods through distribution channels which, while they may be legal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer. In contrast, a black market refers to imports of goods that are illegal in themselves and/or distributed through illegal channels, such as the selling of stolen goods, certain drugs or unregistered handguns.

Frequently this form of parallel import occurs when the price of an item is significantly higher in one country than another. Smaller retailers buy the product where it is available cheaply, often at wholesale, and import it legally to the target market. They then sell it at a price high enough to provide a profit but under the normal market price. This can obviously benefit local buyers, and weed out the greedy distributors that charge excessive margins, but sometimes there are good reasons for higher local prices that people may not be aware of.

I think most people would not be interested to hear about how this can be unfair to local businesses, so instead I thought I’d discuss how this may affect you, if you buy from a local ‘grey importer’, instead of the authorised distributor. Buying something yourself directly from another country is a little different again, as you’d probably be aware of the risk and issues involved and willing to wear it, although some of these points may still apply.

Electrical issues: Electrical goods bought from another country will often be designed for different voltages or have a different plug. Although a universal power supply might be used, you would still need an adaptor.
The legitimate importers pay for providing the goods with the correct plugs and power supply for the country, and also ensure that their goods comply with electrical safe regulations, eg. “I-Tick”, “CE”, etc, which must be marked onto the power supply. There is a cost, time and effort involved in this, which the importer must bear, which is for the benefit of the buyer. Every country has their rules on what they regard as safe, and just because a power supply can handle the voltage, and an adaptor can make the plug fit, does not mean it’s safe or legal.

Warrantee and support: Any seller/retailer can offer a warrantee, but only the authorised distributor can offer a factory backed warrantee. In the case of Newgy, the distributor bears all costs and responsibilities of the warrantee, which means they’re expected to buy and stock (locally) the full range of spare parts, and be able to offer technical advice. Obviously this needs to be factored into the price. Other importers can make their own terms and would generally not stock parts, and you’ll have to rely on their word and their support and accessibility to spare parts.
Customs duties and taxes: The local distributor imports all the goods, which means import duties and taxes (GST) has been paid. Although some retailers of reasonable size will probably do this as well, it is quite common for sellers from Ebay for example, to ship the goods from Asia directly to you. If all goes well, this is fine, but if there are problems, you’ll have to resolve them since you are the recipient. Also customs may inspect the goods and expect you to put in a declaration, which means you’ll have to do the paperwork. Marking the goods as a ‘gift’ does not automatically get you off the hook (customs people are not stupid and know that most seller will mark their parcel as gifts to avoid charges), and the value of the goods is what they deem the value to be, which may be more than the amount that you paid.

Latest Models and upgrades: Most manufacturers make improvements to their robots over time, and fix common issues/problems to ensure they don’t happen in future units. Buying through the larger retailers you’ll probably get the latest model, but from a small and unknown seller you may get an old model. If improvements are made during the warrantee period you may be entitled to an upgrade, or may get a discount to upgrade to a better system. If you buy outside the authorised distributors you’re unlikely to get this.

Level playing field: So hopefully you can see why a higher price from the authorised distributor may (in some cases) be justified, and the extra cost may be of value to you. Another thing to consider is that the smaller seller often do not declare their income (for tax purposes), so they may pocket the full profit without having to pay tax on it. Now I’m NOT urging you to buy only from the authorised distributor as you have total freedom in who you buy from, but I do think the points above should all be carefully considered in making your decision.

If you don’t know much about the seller that you’re considering buying from, you should do some research to convince yourself that the seller is trustworthy, as robots cost a considerably amount of money. In addition these are the sort of questions you should ask:

Questions to ask:

  • Is the power supply genuine, with electrical approval and a plug suitable for your country’s standards?
  • Where is the parcel shipped from, and who handles the customs paperwork if the parcel is inspected? Who pays the customs duties and taxes if required?
  • What are the terms of the warrantee and who do I deal with? Do you have access to all spare parts, and where are they shipped from?