Parallel imports pose thorny support problems

Parallel imports pose thorny support problems

Support issues could be the thorniest aspect of the New Zealand Government's abrupt changes to parallel importing legislation, say local IT distributors and resellers.

The NZ Government hurried through legislation following its recent budget to allow the importation of goods from vendors outside the usual distribution channels.

Ian Jansen, general manager of Auckland-based distributor ComTech, says customers looking to buy cheap goods from parallel importers will have to think twice about warranties.

"Comtech tracks every single serial number so if someone has acquired a product externally and expects us to do a warranty, we won't.

"And we're talking about products that are key parts of the network: switches, network operating software -- if it dies it affects many other devices. So I don't think many of our customers will go down that path.

"To be honest, a lot of customers do pricing comparisons and buy in Australia. That's something we've lived with for a long time. So I think we've become pretty competitive from a pricing point of view," he claimed.

Jansen believes people who will hurt the most are those on the gravy train: "Those with exclusive agencies that are abusing them. Having said that, I don't think there are many people doing that these days. If this had happened five years ago it would have really rocked the boat."

Microsoft New Zealand's marketing manager, Steve Jenkins, says his company's worldwide pricing model means it is unlikely to get caught in a price squeeze by importers. But he is concerned about local distributors.

"The likes of Sealcorp NZ. It has had to add a bit of margin to make the whole deal worthwhile when it has to provide after-sales support. If you've got an overseas product being handled by a local distributor, how does that distributor make enough margin to cover local support issues, and give the channel the margin it wants too?

"The difficulty is that people want to buy from overseas, yet they demand local support when things going wrong. "That's happened to me several times -- not typically from a price point of view, but when people have come into the country with software they've bought overseas and expect to be able to pick up local upgrade offers," Jenkins claimed.

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