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Pretoria - I wasn’t entirely surprised by the e-mail which landed in my inbox the day after my column on grey iPhone 5s was published last week.
As I discovered the last time I warned consumers about the warranty implications of buying grey imports – phones not intended for this country – an abusive e-mail or two is to be expected.
This time it came from “Ashley”, who said: “Apple carries international warranty. Which if Apple existed in South Africa, would be honoured even if your so called ‘grey’ goods were brought in.
“It’s an international warranty for G-d sakes, do you guys not understand what international means?
“Ignorance is bliss isn’t it. Especial (sic) in your non tech and non scientific world.”
In 2011, when I questioned several online cellphone retailers about their failure to disclose to consumers that certain handsets on sale were grey or “parallel” imports, and without warranty back-up from the authorised distributors in this country, one suggested that I was “pushing another agenda”.
“…The media has a reputation of assumption rather than presumption – consumers are well aware of the fact that many consumer rights reporters are merely a form of monopolisation designed to scare the public into thinking that paying less for something means less quality”.
My only “agenda” is to empower consumers to make wise choices.
In the case of grey goods, paying less for something doesn’t mean less quality – in most cases, the goods are genuine. But they generally come with fewer after-sales benefits.
Which is why the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) compels suppliers to disclose to consumers – by means of a “conspicuous notice” in adverts, on packaging and on websites – when goods have been imported without the approval of the registered trade-mark owner.
Store staff are required to “expressly” draw people’s attention to the fact that goods are grey imports.
The CPA regulations state that consumers must be told that the goods “have been imported without the approval or licence of the registered owner of that trademark and that no guarantee or warranty in respect of such goods will be honoured by any official or licensed importer of such goods”.
One local online grey cellphone retailer buries the warranty realities in its terms and conditions.
“We want to be like a friend who is always going overseas and willing to bring back goods for you.
“However, just like when you ask your friend to bring an item back from holiday for you, he/she cannot hold the responsibility of the warranty.”
That’s hardly a “conspicuous” notice.
As for Ashley’s contention that Apple’s warranty is international, according to Rutger-Jan van Spaandonk, executive director of Apple’s South African distributor, the Core Group, the iPhone does not have an international warranty.
“The iPod does, but neither the iPad or iPhone do, as they connect to each country’s unique communications systems, and may have been modified for this reason,” he said.
Matthew Miszczak of Newlands wanted to know whether you have the benefit of a warranty if you get your mate to buy you an iPhone 5 in London.
“I was just wondering how the warranty works in that case, as I’ve heard that companies like Apple would still cover Apple products that aren’t bought in South Africa. Is this true?”
Yes, and no, says Van Spaandonk.
“You can buy the product yourself directly abroad from an authorised reseller, or even online, and import it yourself.
“As long as you pay import duties and taxes, if the product has international warranty, local distributors will provide local warranty, but only with proof of purchase from an authorised reseller, and proof of proper importation.
“If the product has no international warranty, as in the case of the iPhone, you can return it to the country of origin for repair or exchange, although you would have to pay shipping costs.”
If you choose to buy that must-have device, ask specific questions about its warranty, and insist on seeing the terms and conditions in writing, before you commit. - Pretoria News