What You Need To Know About Grey Market and Parallel Importing

At Camera Warehouse, we state clearly on our site that all of our stock is sourced through authorised Australian distributors and has a genuine Australian warranty. We don’t participate in ‘grey market’ or ‘parallel import’ activities. What exactly does that mean?

What is the Grey Market?

Camera Warehouse is an authorised Australian dealer for the products we sell. This means we acquire our products through authorised Australian distributors acting on behalf of the brands in Australia. For example, Olympus distributes their products to Australia through Olympus Australia, who then distribute their products to us to sell to the general public. These are products intended for sale in Australia, and Olympus have considered many factors when supplying them, like demand for particular products, and price due to exchange rates, freight charges and importing fees. They also keep track of things like serial numbers, so in the event of a problem, they can easily track where the product in question came from and fix the issue with a minimum of fuss.

The same goes for authorised dealers in any country. However, in this day and age, buying from an overseas source is not at all uncommon, and many sites will ship worldwide. Let’s say you decide to buy a camera from a US site, a site which is an authorised dealer in the US. The camera you’re buying was actually meant for the US market, but is being shipped to you in Australia. By taking the camera outside of the market it was meant for, you have made the camera a grey market item.

Parallel Importing

Buying a camera that is from an overseas source is one thing, but how about buying from an Australian source? Sometimes, a company trading in Australia (although not necessarily located in Australia) will import products from authorised distributors elsewhere in the world for the purpose of selling them inside Australia. This creation of grey market items through importing en masse is called parallel importing.

Why Buy Grey Market?

Quite simply, for most people the main factor is the price - a lot of markets outside of Australia are able to sell products cheaper than you can buy them in Australia, even taking into account any extra fees or charges you may have to pay.

Is Grey Market Illegal?

No, it isn’t. It is absolutely legal to buy products from an overseas source, otherwise shopping while you are on an overseas holiday wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Once you’ve bought something it’s yours to do with as you please, including having it shipped to you in Australia or bringing it with you when you come home from your holiday. Of course you may have to pay GST when the item enters Australia, plus any applicable customs fees, but otherwise you’re free to do whatever you like with your purchase.

The Downside of Grey Market and Parallel Importing

Very few things come without some sort of caveat, and the main problem with buying a grey market camera is the warranty. Most brands will not honour warranties on grey market products, meaning if something goes wrong with your camera in the warranty period, getting it fixed may not be a simple matter, if indeed it’s able to be fixed under warranty at all. Of course if nothing goes wrong with your camera this isn’t an issue, but if something does, that money you saved on the original purchase could end up being at least partially negated or possibly even well exceeded. Even if the camera is able to be fixed under warranty, this could well mean sending it overseas, which if nothing else will take a lot longer than if it was sent within Australia.

We should point out this is not always the case. There are some parallel importers who are reputable, and do ensure warranties are honoured. Unfortunately there are many who have proven to be difficult to deal with.

The Bottom Line

There are a few other arguments you can make for not buying grey market products, however the purpose of this piece is not to challenge principles or question politics. The main aim is to make people aware of what grey market and parallel importing means and why you should be wary of it. Buying photographic equipment of any sort is not a cheap investment, and therefore it makes complete sense to be looking out for the best price possible. We here at Camera Warehouse strive to keep our prices very competitive for this reason.

If you’re still not sure, don’t just take our word for it - check out other sites and reviews. Whirlpool forums are a pretty good place to start.