The many shades grey market smartphone repairs - are the risks really worth the savings?

The grey market seems like a great value for money option but the consequences of getting a repair done by unauthorised shops make themselves felt later.

The latest and hottest smartphone just hit the market and you can’t wait to call it your own. You pool in all your savings and finally buy it. Your excitement knows no bounds, until you stumble and the phone slips out of your hand.  The cost of replacing the screen is frightening, and someone suggests you try the local grey market. You get the screen repaired for a fraction of the price at a non-authorised service center, and your phone seems as good as new. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? While on the face of it, the local market or grey market seems like a great value for money option but the consequences of getting a repair done by unauthorised shops make themselves felt later. And they aren’t particularly pretty.

The many shades grey market smartphone repairs - are the risks really worth the savings?

Max Grabmayr

What is a Grey /Parallel/ Local Market?

The products and parts sold in the grey market come through distribution channels that are not authorised by the manufacturers and are often copies. This means that the sellers obtain the products and copied spare parts through unofficial channels without paying import duties and taxes, and they operate without paying any of the local taxes either. This is why local or grey markets are able to sell parts at much lower costs than authorised service centers. While the low costs are indubitably attractive, you need to remember that because these arrive in the grey markets through unauthorised channels, there can be no guarantees on quality or even authenticity. Every time you buy or have a repair from a grey market you run the risk of spending money on a product or service that might turn out to be a very poor-quality that won’t last even a couple of months.

The Indian Mobile Grey Market

India ranks amongst the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world with over 30 million shipments in 2016. Unfortunately, the Indian grey market is also substantial. According to a report in the Hindustan Times, “India is worth more than Rs. 55,000 crore in terms of counterfeit goods. Electronics contributes to over 18 percent — an estimated Rs. 10,000 crore.’’ This is a serious cause for concern and steps are being taken by the Indian Government to mitigate this challenge. But ultimately, it is the end consumers who have to look beyond just the low prices, and realise the long-term problems posed by grey markets.

Why do Consumers go to the Grey Market?

The most obvious reason, is of course – cost. Consumers get discounts, ranging from 25- 40 percent on devices and spare parts. The other key factor is that of easy availability. Most grey market sellers obtain the products in bulk to further reduce their costs. So, customers often get the part they need rather quickly.

What are the Risks of Buying or Repairing your Device in the Grey Market?

  • Copied Parts: The parts provided by the local traders are neither original, nor authentic. The differences might not be obvious but over a period of time, they will make themselves felt.
  • No OEM guaranty: If a non-authorised vendor repairs a device, the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) will no longer offer the guaranty of the device. It is automatically voided for all future repairs needed, even if still under warranty.
  • Phone data at risk: Our phones carry a huge amount of personal and sensitive data, ranging from emails to photos. In the hands of an unscrupulous local vendor, this data is at tremendous risk. They can copy and misuse it without you even knowing of it. They can also retrieve the deleted files from your phone in a matter of few minutes.
    Damage to the product: Unauthorised spare parts can damage and decrease the life of a device. In a worst-case scenario, these parts can destroy the device completely.
  • No warranty: When you buy or repair a product at the local market, you do not get a warranty on the repair. The device can stop working the next day and you will not have a fail-safe option for fixing it again without paying large amounts of money.

Benefits of going to an authorised service center
Only authorised service centers have the capability, experience and expertise to best repair a phone. A trusted and authorised provider of customer care services for smartphones and other consumer electronics can ensure reliable customer service. Authorised providers are manufacture certified and trained to repair the devices. This is essential for big brands like Apple, Samsung, Motorola and OnePlus. Authorised service providers sell authorised spare parts and ensure ongoing warranty.

The cost of repair or replacement from an authorised dealer might seem high initially. But, the risks associated with grey market purchases are significant. With an authorised dealer, you will save in the long run, by avoiding damage, repeated repairs and even data theft.

The author is the CEO of B2X India


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