Parallel imports (also called grey or direct imports) are products that you buy from a seller who does not have specific permission from the manufacturer to sell those products in the Australian marketplace.
Parallel imports may benefit you by offering products at lower prices and providing access to items which otherwise may not be available in Australia. However, you need to be able to identify when you are buying parallel imports and be aware of your rights when purchasing these products.
Most manufacturers allow businesses to distribute and sell their products in particular countries, including Australia. However, sometimes a business will sell genuine products which have been bought into Australia without the specific permission of the manufacturer. That's called a parallel import. Parallel imports include many different products such as groceries, alcohol, personal care products and electronics. They can be sold online or in-store.
Some indicators that a product may be a parallel import include:
- the product is a genuine one made overseas, but you can’t identify any relationship or association between the seller and the manufacturer
- the purchase price is cheaper than you would ordinarily expect to pay for the product in Australia
- the product is not otherwise available in the Australian market
- the product is refurbished rather than brand new.
Example: Cheep Phones has sourced its phones from a well-known supplier who is based in the USA. The USA supplier only has permission to sell these phones in the USA market. Cheep Phones sells the phones online to Australian consumers. Jimmy decides to buy a phone online from Cheep Phones because it seems a lot cheaper than other websites or stores in Australia. Jimmy would be buying a parallel import.
While you have the same consumer rights when you buy parallel imports as you do with any other goods, it may be more difficult to obtain a remedy if something goes wrong with a parallel import.
- Goods come with a number of guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law, known as consumer guarantees. If your good is faulty or does not do what you asked for you may be entitled to a remedy which includes a right to a repair, replacement or refund.
- The seller who you bought the good from will be responsible for providing you with a remedy under the consumer guarantees.
- The seller cannot refuse to help you or ask you to contact the local manufacturer.
- If the seller is based overseas, there may be practical and legal difficulties in enforcing your consumer guarantee rights against an overseas business.
Local manufacturers and warranties
- If the product comes with a manufacturer’s warranty - that warranty may not apply in Australia, or depending on the terms and conditions may not apply to products sold as parallel imports.
- Although your products may carry a particular or popular brand name - if it is sold to you as a parallel import, the local manufacturer is not required to help you if the product develops a fault. You need to contact the seller.
- You may not be able to get assistance such as product/technical support or repair/spare part facilities from the local manufacturer or their representative. For example, the software of your product may not be suited for the Australian market. You need to contact the seller.
Parallel imports may provide you with lower prices and greater choice but it is important to consider the following tips before buying.
- If you are unsure whether you're buying a parallel import:
- ask the seller or manufacturer
- check the manufacturer’s website for a list of authorised suppliers or distributors in Australia.
- If the product comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, check with the seller to see whether it applies in Australia.
- Check that the product will work in Australia, especially if it is an electronic product or relies on particular technology. The product may not be a typical Australian model and may be different to what you expect, for example, it may not be adapted for the local environment in Australia.
- Read the seller's terms and conditions to ensure you are aware of any exclusions or different features than what you would normally expect.
If you are buying a food product or anything with an ingredients list, check the ingredients carefully. Do not assume the product will contain the same ingredients as a similar product in Australia. The ingredients may be different even if the product packaging appears the same.
If something goes wrong with your product your consumer guarantee rights will apply. The seller will be responsible for providing you with a remedy, such as a repair, replacement or refund, within a reasonable time if there is a fault.
You can contact the Australian manufacturer of the product but it may refuse to provide you with a remedy if it did not give permission to the seller to sell the product in Australia.
Where you have paid for a product or service by way of a credit arrangement (credit card or loan), you may be able to request a chargeback on the transaction from your financial institution or bank that issued the credit card. You should contact your financial institution as soon as possible to find out whether this is possible.
Contact the seller to make a consumer complaint.