January 23, 2014 7:12 pm
Up until recently, I would hear whispers about gray market goods, but it was usually associated to knock off fashion accessories and designer jeans. Enter the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement with a potent warning to homeowners when it comes to gray market home appliances, electronics and even certain building materials.
Gray market goods are manufactured abroad for sale in other countries and imported into the U.S. without permission of the trademark holder, according to the Better Business Bureau. In some cases, merchandise is manufactured under different specifications and may not meet US regulatory requirements, BBB notes.
A larger problem for consumers, is that in an effort to stem the unauthorized sale of these items, manufacturers' warranties will not cover gray market goods, so if the product breaks the cost of repairs or replacement may eliminate any savings.
Gray market distributors sell through small websites and online auctions. So the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement reminds consumers that these unscrupulous re-sellers may advertise products as new, authentic, and branded goods.
But customers may wind up receiving goods ranging from used or re-marketed products, to those that have been wholly or partially counterfeited or mislabeled. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid problems with gray market merchandise:
- Check to see if the price is unrealistically low - beware of a brand name product that is being sold at significantly below the manufacturer's price.
- Ask the seller - Sellers are obliged to disclose whether they are selling a gray market product. Your state or county Consumer Protection office may require such disclosure.
- Carefully inspect the merchandise - Check to see whether the manual and other printed material is in English.
- Ask about repairs - Gray market merchandise will most likely not be eligible for repair at a manufacturer's authorized service center.
- Use a credit card - A credit card allows you to dispute charges for a purchase of gray market merchandise that was misrepresented at the time of sale.