Grey market products: not always cheaper

We compare some prices for popular products from the grey market and local retailers to work out if there are still significant savings from buying imported electronics.

It's that time of year when electronic devices feature prominently on our list of Christmas gifts and Boxing Day bargains.

(Aus currency image by Taluda, royalty free)

Grey market goods have often been a tempting alternative to buying locally-sourced stock because of their lower price points. We take a look to see if there is still a big difference in price between local and grey market products, and what you really get for your money.

What are grey market products?

Grey market products are goods that are sourced from overseas rather than through the local distributor. This process is often called parallel importing. They may be less expensive than the Australian RRP or local retail prices because they forgo the overheads associated with local business.

Often, grey market products come without the same documentation and box contents as their Australian counterparts. For example, the power adapters may be for a different country.

Warranty

Warranty issues are the main source of concern for most consumers when choosing to buy local or imported stock. In general, a parallel import or grey market product is not covered by a manufacturer's local warranty. So for example, if you buy a Canon camera from a grey market retailer it will not be covered by Canon Australia under a local warranty. Instead, it generally has to be returned to the vendor for repair or replacement.

On top of local warranties, some companies are offering incentives to keep your dollar in the pocket of Australian retailers. These include cashback deals and bonus accessories to sweeten the deal.

As always, it's important to check before you buy. Some manufacturers have international warranties that apply no matter where you buy the product.

Price comparisons

If you're looking to buy a camera, smartphone or other electronics from the grey market, we have compared a few products to determine the price difference between local and overseas stock.

Product Local price Grey market price Price difference
Canon EOS 1100D single lens kit AU$348 (Big W) AU$392.99 (Kogan) AU$44.99
HTC One 4G 32GB unlocked AU$644 (JB Hi-Fi) AU$649.90 (Mobicity) AU$5.90
Canon EOS 5D Mark III body only AU$3090 (Digital Camera Warehouse)* AU$3439 (Kogan) AU$349
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 4G 16GB AU$787 (Bing Lee) AU$798.90 (Mobicity) AU$11
Nikon D610 body only AU$2038.85 (Ryda) AU$1979 (Kogan) -AU$59.85
Samsung Galaxy S4 i9505 4G 16GB AU$678 (Officeworks) AU$668.90 (Mobicity) -AU$9.10
Canon EOS 6D body only AU$1548.86 (Ryda)* AU$1843.99 (Kogan) AU$295.13

* Including AU$200 cashback from Canon Australia. Original retail price is AU$3290 before cashback for 5D Mark III and AU$1748.85 for 6D. Offer valid until 31 January 2014

Note that the prices listed from grey market retailers include shipping to postcode 2000. All prices were correct (and converted to AUD where applicable) at time of publication, and are subject to change.

In many of the examples above, the locally-sourced stock works out around the same or better value than the grey market version.

It pays to do a bit of research before grabbing that credit card, rather than assuming that the imported versions work out cheaper. In some cases this may hold true, but in plenty of these examples that small saving when buying grey in the short term might not be worth the headache later on down the track.

 

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