back to article Parallel import argument turns toxic in Oz

With retailers in Australia getting shafted by vendors and consumers alike, it’s hardly surprising that the "Iron Curtain" of channel control is starting to fall. With it, price discrimination – the “hell, Aussies will pay anything” thinking that’s set prices for imported goods since time immemorial – is also breaking down, …


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  1. Moving Pictures
    Thumb Up

    About time!

    Best news I've heard for ages!

    As a pretty heavy gamer, I've long since given up buying games from Australian stores. It's always cheaper for me to buy from England, even before the AUD skyrocketed. As an added bonus, it's delivered to my door.

    $89 on steam? or $47 delivered to my house.

    I even scoured the bargain bins once upon a time for the game NOX. I found it for $20 in Harvey Norman at that time, or 3 pounds for the and 4 pounds delivery. At that time the exchange rate was 1:3 so it actually cost me $21.77 to get NOX delivered to my house from England but I did it anyway.

    The only downside is that Skyrim arrived on the 20th of November when the release date was 11/11

    1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik


      Only in europe but we still get shafted on some of the prices so I order stuff from the UK as well. I can save up to 15 eur WITH shipping on a release.

      But yeah I got Skyrim on the 17th so nearly a week after release. Still survivable.

  2. Malcolm Weir

    That's what VPN's are for...

    It would appear that, if a company like JB HiFi is prepared to shoulder the cost of actual warranty service, the added cost of maintaining a VPN connection and proxy service for their customers is relatively small. So they could, say, have a VPN from Victoria to Singapore or Hong Kong or wherever they get the goods, and back that with a public facing web proxy (possibly with authentication that the user bought from them, but more likely why bother).

    Joe Punter goes now to JB HiFi for the latest firmware for the gadget with the geolocked firmware, and pulls the firmware from Singapore/Hong Kong/Wherever rather than from Australia... at least as far as the gadget maker is concerned.

    This, of course, fails if there's some specific Australian content, but in that situation there is no parallel import: there is in-country added-value.

  3. Lindsay T

    Big Threat?

    I have been in and around IT since the early 1960s and, while not a supergeek, I might reasonably be termed a geriageek. I have also been a keen amateur photographer for at least as long. I have never updated my beloved OM2 and it still works like a dream, if i can be bothered to search out 35mm film. More relevantly, this house contains at least 5 high-end digital cameras and a plethora of others of varying ages going back to a Canon of nearly 20 years ago. None have ever had the firmware updated.

    I accept that some improvements may have been missed and, in extremis, I do occasionally update the firmware in my more sophisticated IT kit but this threat, for most folk, is completely empty. The average user just doesn't care while the true enthusiast is well aware of how to get round such restrictions.

    Good on ya Cobbers; your disrespect for overbearing authority is an example to us all. Now deal similarly with your traffic cops before their extreme ways infect those of us who admire you from the northern hemisphere.

  4. Mike Green

    with certain exceptions (these days, chiefly books).

    Which is why all the book shops are going out of business, and even when Borders had its closing down sale with 50% off all books, you could STILL get them on Amazon for half those proces. The price cartels are basically killing the Australian retail industry, and their own ridiculous margins.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Especially when Amazon UK continue doing free delivery to Oz!

  5. Mike Echo

    Truth hurts

    I am looking at buying a Nikon DSLR via grey market very shortly. I like to support Oz business, but not when they treat you with contempt. We have been dicked for far too long as far as prices go.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Sounds like you might be better off with Anything But Nikon, from the way Nikon's carrying on about it.

  6. Exit Stage Right

    Serial numbers...?

    Come on folks... What if I buy a camera in the UK (which I have) and then move to another country (which I have) are they now saying I can't update my firmware because I am now in another location? I suspect not and because of this scenario of legitimate purchase they will not be able to distinguish that from the so called grey import case. FUD at its best.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Depends on the company and your new country. Canon have a Europe-wide warranty scheme (at least for the DSLRs anyway); I have stuff bought in the UK and Spain and the warranty on all of it is valid in the whole of Europe. However it sounds like Nikon may not be so friendly :)

    2. Mark 65

      It is certainly bullshit. Although not a Nikon user I sometimes download my Canon firmware updates from the EU site, sometimes from the AU site and sometimes from an English language version of the JP site. How on earth are they going to region lock it? Serial numbers? Purrrrlease. They'd instantly lose all of their professional users that would be fucked over in the process. A price not worth paying.

      On a separate matter the loss of warranty is not entirely FUD. I would much rather have a 12 month warranty from the manufacturer than from a store (despite reputation) that is still more likely to go out of business and also needs to get the expertise from somewhere - local authorised agent maybe? The best that can happen is it makes the manufacturers have a rethink. Despite the supposedly higher prices I managed to get a 5D MKII with lens cheaper at launch in JB Hi-Fi than anywhere I could find in the UK (genuine local stock in each location).

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    The biggest exception of them all

    Cars. You are not allowed to parallel import new cars. It's even quite difficult to import cars that were never sold locally. The legacy of once having a large local automotive manufacturing industry.

    Some cars, particularly those sold in lower volumes, can cost more than twice as much here as they do in the USA, and still quite a lot more than in Europe or Japan. Even cars built here, when they were sold in the USA until a few years ago, went for much lower prices than they did on the local market.

    This is something nobody expects to change, unfortunately. It's nice to dream about a particular car until you realise that if you lived somewhere else you'd already own it because it's $30k there instead of $70k.

    1. Mark 65

      Amen to that. As an example, I could buy a BMW M5 in the UK ship it over here and pay all the duties and it'd still be less than the list price (net tax) locally. Bastards. Not that I could afford one either way.

  8. David Hicks

    Yes it is about time

    The importers and the "White" market are strangling Australian retail - and the price of most consumer goods here is ludicrous given the parity in currency between AUD and USD.

    Just look at the Kindle. $109 for the base model in the US, AUD 139 here. The "Kindle Keyboard 3G" is $139 in the US and AUD 219 from Dick Smith!

    You'd have to be a fool (or in a hurry) to buy anything serious from the stores here. JB Hifi have obviously started to realise that if they keep allowing themselves to be screwed by the suppliers then there's not going to be any place for them much longer.

    I always found the banning of grey markets in some places (EU) to be the shady, nasty, dirty side of globalisation and free trade - Big companies get to look worldwide for cheap materials and labour, but then try their damnedest to stop the consumer using the same privilege to source their goods.

    1. dotdavid

      Re: Yes it is about time

      "I always found the banning of grey markets in some places (EU) to be the shady, nasty, dirty side of globalisation and free trade"

      Weird, because banning grey markets is almost the opposite of free trade.

      If anything it's the shady, nasty, dirty side of government-backed protectionism.

      With the rest, though, you're bang on.

  9. Richard Freeman
    Thumb Up

    @ Mike Green

    Borders is probably not a good example - even at their closing down sale, I could still get the same books for cheaper at the nearby QBD bookshop, next floor up in the same shopping centre....

    In fact Borders is a very good example of the contempt some retailers have shown for the Australian public:

    Their marketing strategy was sell books at a higher price than anyone else (even other bricks and mortar retailers), even above Australian RRP....

    Borders failure was not really all that difficult to predict.

    Another example of this was Starbucks, who sold bland flavourless 'Coffee' (not sure what I tasted there was really Coffee) at twice the price of anyone else (i.e. those folk who were selling real Coffee).

    A couple of years later they are wondering why this marketing strategy was a complete failure and Starbucks never really took off in Australia.....

    So it is good to see JB Hi-Fi taking on the distributors and now if the other retailers like Harvey Norman would stop moaning about the 10% GST and blaming the Government and follow suit (and maybe also look at what rent they are paying to Westfield et,al as well) and join in then maybe we would see some real change in Australia.

    I have been saving up for a new Nikon but now I think it can wait a month or two,

    Ok pass the Popcorn...

    1. Mark 65

      Is it legal in Oz to sell for more than RRP?

      1. bep

        RRP stands for 'Recomended Retail Price'. Retailers can, theoretically, charge what they like because retail price maintenance is, theoretically, illegal. Never seen a discount on any Apple product, however, so suppliers have ways and means of making you play ball, some more than others.

  10. Stephen 10

    Software next please

    If they could do the same with Adobe's stuff, especially Creative Sweet that would be awesome. The 100% markup has got quite tired.

    Oh, and cars. Though with the ATO actively collaborating on making parallel-imports over priced I won't hold my breath on that one. It was funny watching Clarkson complain recently about the BMW 1M being so overpriced at UKP40k, it's about 2.5x that price here.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm in New Zealand and bought a Motorola Defy from an overseas drop shipper. It came with the UAE rom on it (in English - no Motoblur), NZ and Euro style mains chargers & English instructions

    $410 including all import taxes, plus about another $30 delivery

    To buy in NZ without a contract - $749 or $799 depending on the network.

    Change the sheets you've just been f#*ked!

  12. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Not just books...

    The real big item for parallel imports is cars. I get white knuckles of anger every time I look at the price I could buy and import (container, customs, the lot) a European car from the UK (so it's already RHS) and compare it to outrageous prices down here. And in this case it's not the vendors/manufacturers.

    Everybody from the road safety agencies to the dealers to the makers of Australian crap cars are quite happy to ban parallel imports and rip us off by thousands of dollar under the pretense that a new modern European car won't far exceed the safety and road standards set by the level of Fords and Holdens made here.

    1. Mark 65

      Exactly. Fords and Holdens only became 5-star safety rated in the last few years along with the fitting of standard safety measures that Europeans have taken for granted for about a decade. A 2010 Ford Falcon XR6 doesn't have any rear airbags. Fuck the passengers eh? I even remember a friend buying a new Toyota Corolla locally in 2007/8 and being told ABS was an optional extra. Local safety standards, oxymoron.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Used to be like that in the UK. I have a friend who imported a Lotus brand-new from Japan.

      In all the car was manufactured in the UK, transported to Japan with Japanese import tax, then put in a container and transported to Portugal with Portuguese import tax & registration and then transported to the UK. I don't know if the Japanese import tax was refunded, but I know the shipping cost back was a lot, and doing it in a container added even more.

      Totak cost? A lot less than buying the same car in the UK without transporting it all around the planet first!! Oh, and it was right-hand drive, plus as an extra bonus had lots of nice gadgets that the Japanese get.

  13. Neoc

    Pot, kettle

    Translation of the industry's rant "We want to be able to offshore R&D and manufacturing, but you're not allowed to offshore your buying."

  14. dshan

    Free Markets vs Monopolists

    I'm shocked, shocked I tells you, at the way these huge multi-national corporations are so keen to ignore the wonderful benefits of the free market, free trade and all that palava they love to go on about.

    They should be overjoyed at the opportunity to sell their products everywhere in the world on an equal footing, going head to head with their competition and demonstrating the wonders of free market capitalism. Instead they want the government to legislate them their own little monopoly where they can charge what they like where they like.

  15. BristolBachelor Gold badge


    Don't know about Australia, but in the UK the warranty is with the company you bought the product from. Yes, it may be easier to go direct to the manufacturer or their agents, but the legal requirement is with the actual company that took your money. Nikon might say you have no warranty, but the law says otherwise.

    Here in Europe, Canon cameras give you a warranty across Europe (buy in UK, valid in Spain type of thing), but that might only be because of the common market. Buy a Canon in USA and Canon UK/Europe won't touch it. However, if you buy a Canon in Japan, the warranty is world-wide (and the most excellent camera shops in Japan have all the manuals in different languages and change them for the language you want).

  16. P. Lee

    Note to Australian vendors

    Amazon opening a data centre in AU?

    J&B are the *least* of your problems!

    I'm so sick of the prices here I don't buy locally on principle, if I can help it.

  17. jennyg

    I am disgusted about being taken for a ride on so many items.

    CDs, DVDs and books are so over-priced here it is no longer a joke.

    I buy many of my CDs and DVDs and books second-hand now (same quality, more reasonable price and same returns policy).

    We should be paying comparable prices to the US and UK, not this joke of freight costs adding to the cost.

    Even the cost of fuel here is excessive when you look at what many near neighbours in South east Asia are paying.

    The Australian government sought public discussion on parallel imports a couple of years ago for books.

    Whilst, many seem to think we are paying fair prices, I want all of you to think of the effect on literacy with the high prices of books (especially with the addition of GST) when a novel in the US may cost $10 and in France 5 euros and we are paying $20-$30 for the same here and sometimes have the release delayed as well. Many school style non-fiction books may cost $35 or $40 to purchase and for small schools, so not many can be bought on a limited budget.

    This affects everyone with a school age child and is only the tip of the iceberg.

  18. Tim Roberts 1

    grey imports in oz

    In one of my interests, ham radio, there is an ongoing debate between sanctioned retailers and grey importers here in oz. As a consumer the questions that I ask are:

    1) which is cheaper

    2) will I risk the lack of a "real" guarantee to purchase a grey import

    3) what is the guarantee worth to me

    Having bought from both, I would say that above a threshold of say AU$1000, then it is worth paying more to get the "real" guarantee. Below that I look at reviews of the equipment with particular focus on reliability, and then make my decision on cost. This has not let me down yet as no grey imports have failed and the one radio I spent AU$2000+ (and bought from a legit shop) did fail but was fixed quickly. Yeah yeah I know, I know.

    Same applies to cameras. I recently purchased a top-of-the-line consumer Canon DSLR, and should the body fail - really the digital end of the camera, I will not be behind if I purchase another one online compared with shopping locally for the initial purchase.

    The arguments given by vendors usually end up with "small market share = increased transport costs. That may well have been the case years ago, but I call BS to it today.

  19. Miek

    "Nikon appears to be warning Australian consumers that its firmware downloads are (or can be) geolocked: only “Australian” serial numbers will be able to download firmware from Australian IP addresses."

    What if I bought the camera in Australia and then wanted to do an upgrade in the field*, say from the UK?

    * Not the type of field that contains cows.

    1. Steve Renouf

      Get a mate to download it and email it to you!?! There are always ways to circumvent this manufacturer bullshit (in fact, it's not really the manufacturers - as borne out by the fact that a purchase in Japan gives you a worldwide warranty - it's the regional exclusivity agreements that the distributors have with the manufacturers).

  20. Steve Renouf

    Have I got News For You?

    Yes, I have.

    It's not just Australia! It's everywhere the governments let them get away with it (which is pretty much everywhere in the "western" world) due to the level of vested interest of the AHs in power.

  21. Dr. Trout

    Even the locals are doing it.

    Have a look at Crumpler (bags). Very hip. All the cool kids have one. Great bags though. I'll give 'em that. A great Aussie business started right here in Melbourne.


    What costs $400 here on their web site costs $200 in the US. Check it out for yourselves.

    Aussie consumers are getting screwed from morning til night by everyone we buy from. And the ACCC is a docile dog.

  22. TimChuma
    Thumb Up

    Also an added bonus for US-based websites

    The prices listed in $USD are cheaper again when you convert them to $AUD. Even when you add the $75 delivery charge the same camera was $500 cheaper than I could get it in Australia.

    I do still buy DVDs from JB HiFi and they do get imports sometimes.

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