Whenever I write about scams I get a truck load of sympathetic email from legitimate resellers and the occasional flame saying I am giving the industry a bad name. Well as the X-Files said — the truth is out there.
Over the past few months I have received more than 100 emails from consumers who have been ripped off by discount computer shops, classified advertisers, at computer markets, via mail order, over the Internet or at online auctions. In the great majority of cases, tracking down the reseller, let alone getting satisfaction, was next to impossible.
If you paddle in the consumer (cess) pool, you will find a range of scams including parts substitution, partially shipped, remarked or counterfeit goods, grey market or parallel imports, remanufactured or refurbished goods, GST avoidance, stolen goods... the list is endless.
The most prevalent scam is through mail order and Internet purchases, where customers can wait weeks for goods to arrive only to find the order is wrong, missing something or not sold/supported in Australia.
Next are grey market/parallel imported goods. While this is legal, most Australian disties won’t provide warranty and support on these goods — and nor should they.
Finally there are computer markets, which are worse than a cesspool and should be stopped immediately. At a recent meet I conservatively estimate that 80 per cent of the goods on show were grey market, counterfeit or stolen. And the vendors avoid GST by selling for cash and using false ABNs if asked for a tax invoice.
It is time the legitimate channel did something about these scams. In an ideal world you would: refuse to supply any reseller that indulged in this behaviour; make businesses sign a code of ethics/conduct to only sell genuine goods supplied by approved disties, that in turn provide a quality Australian warranty and support; run spot raids and audits of suspect companies and run them out of town if they grey market; make sure legitimate goods have uniquely identifiable packaging, barcodes, model numbers or RFID tags to identify them as the real McCoy; set up websites to help the consumer identify legitimate goods — a simple serial number, model check or package description would suffice; set up reporting and whistle-blower mechanisms; take a hard line by not supporting goods sold outside the legitimate channel; and publicise this until the cows come home.
The longer respectable resellers and disties condone this activity by sitting on their collective backsides, the more damage is being done to legitimate brands and the value of their respective business.