Know your rights with parallel importing
As parallel-imported products become more popular we're seeing an increasing number of clients who have found they haven't received the bargain they expected.
In one typical case, Judy came to see us because she was having problems with her parallel-imported smartphone. The instructions were in German, and the phone had stopped working.
She contacted the company that sold her the phone, but they gave her the run-around.
Eventually she had to send the phone overseas for repairs, resulting in a long wait without a phone.
You can definitely get some good deals by buying parallel-imported products, but it's worth asking the importer a few questions first.
The most important thing you need to know is whether they're based in New Zealand.
If they are, then they're obliged under the Consumer Guarantees Act to ensure their goods are of acceptable quality and match their descriptions, and to sort out any problems.
If they're based overseas you have considerably less protection, and may have real difficulty getting any problems fixed.
Many of the problems we see are related to electronic goods such as phones, laptops and tablets. Some phones are locked to particular networks or particular frequencies, so make sure you ask whether it will work on your network.
Also, some electronic goods don't come with English language manuals or plugs.
If you have a problem, you'll likely have to send it back overseas to be fixed, and it might be a long time before you get the goods back.
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act you have the right to ask for your money back or a replacement if the repairs aren't going to be done in a "reasonable time". So if it sounds like repairs are going to be time-consuming, we recommend asking for a replacement instead.
Andrew Hubbard is national research and policy advisor at the Citizen's Advice Bureau