Notebook vendor, Toshiba Australia, has ordered its distribution partners to cease selling Toshiba product to a Victorian-based reseller it accuses of importing product through unauthorised distribution channels.
Computer World Victoria Pty Ltd, based in Dandenong, Melbourne, has been taking out large advertisements in major newspapers advertising a range of products that include the Toshiba Satellite 1950, a machine that is not sold by Toshiba Australia. It has stores in Richmond, Glen Waverley and the Sydney CBD,
The vendor has asked that its distributors no longer supply Toshiba products to Computer World as of March 24.
Toshiba Australia's concern is not so much that one of its resellers might be parallel importing the product (Toshiba staff presume from the US), but that the grey market activity was misleading customers about warranty support.
The vendor is worried that Computer World Australia Pty Ltd’s Web site links to the Toshiba Web site, insinuating that the vendor has authorised the sale of such products. Documentation in Computer World’s advertising also promises one-year warranties with its goods.
Toshiba Australia refuses to support this warranty, citing the fact that it does not sell such a product in Australia. “If someone wants to import a product that we don’t sell here, so be it,” general manager of Toshiba, Ralph Stadus, said. “But if they do that, they need to also support it and explain to the consumers that Toshiba will not be supporting it.”
Toshiba Australia could not support the product even if it wanted to. The 1900 series comes with a 16-inch TFT screen, a size for which Toshiba Australia sells no equivalent. Consequently, the local office has no available parts for the product.
“We have been put in a position where we cannot help the customer,” Stadus said. “We are concerned consumers might buy the computer under the false impression that Toshiba will cover their warranty.”
Toshiba Australia is now undertaking an aggressive campaign that will run alongside the regular large advertisements Computer World books in newspapers such as The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, warning customers that the products are not supported by Toshiba. Stadus said such a strategy was "heavy-handed" but it was not the first time he had received customer complaints concerning the reseller.
“What we are trying to do is inform the consumer of what they are really buying,” Stadus said. “If the consumer accepts the risk, that’s fine.” Stadus said the leading vendors needed to raise standards in the channel.
“We need to eliminate the poor elements and improve the calibre of the reseller community,” he said. “We owe something to the channel than just using them to move our products.”
Managing director of Computer World Victoria Pty Ltd, Murugesu Rajah, told ARN he had not received any communication from Toshiba about the products.
He urged Toshiba to call him and discuss the matter.
Stadus insisted he should not need to contact the reseller before taking such action.
“The rules of the Trade Practices Act and the normal rules for engagement in the IT channel are clear,” he said. “You break them, and you shouldn’t expect a warning about the consequences. Ignorance is no defence.”
Rajah told ARN that he bought the products from “a local supplier”. He said that he “paid by cheque” for the goods but did not know exactly who the local supplier was.
“I don’t import or anything like that,” he said.
For more on Toshiba and Computer World, see next week's edition of ARN.