Reminder: Know What You’re Getting Into With Gray-Market Electronics

n7100Ruby bought the international version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. She thought it was great…right until it abruptly died. Samsung tech support wouldn’t help her, so she sent a plea to the mailbox of Samsung USA president Y.K. Kim. The office of the president couldn’t support a product that Samsung USA didn’t sell, either.

Online shopping makes it very, very easy to buy gray-market electronics: gadgets that weren’t intended to be sold in the market where you live. This means that they work just fine, but if something goes wrong, you are on your own. In the best case scenario, someone might be able to repair or exchange your device if you can get it to the country where it’s actually warrantied. If you travel regularly to Korea, that’s fine, but most people don’t.

That’s how warranties and imports work, okay. What Ruby doesn’t understand is why a multinational company can sell an almost identical product in different markets but not support its users. She wrote:


I am writing to discuss a grave problem I see in Samsung mobile tech support. I’ve just spoken with 2 levels of your tech support personnel and neither was able to help me – or it seems, to even care that I was raising an issue.

I purchased an international version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (GT-N7100) at the end of November in 2012 and was very happy with it until a few days ago, when it just randomly died, with no warning whatsoever. I was using it one minute, the next minute it would not turn on at all. I’ve tried fixes such as putting in a known good battery (from another Galaxy Note 2), holding down the power button, etc. It’s bad enough that a $600+ device that I bought less than 6 months ago just randomly died (and, it seems this is not unique to my phone as I’ve found plenty of others with the same problem online), now I’m told that no one in the US can service the device or provide even a US replacement.

This is a ridiculous stance for an international company that is selling a (very expensive) mobile device that is meant to go all over the world. That you cannot service a phone where the user resides or happens to be at the moment but requires that the user spend her own money to call an international phone number (at very inconvenient times overnight) and probably have to send the phone overseas for service (for who knows how much more money) for an indefinite amount of time (for a device that users have come to rely on daily) – especially for a failure that is due to a manufacturer defect and through no fault of the user at all – means that you basically have no service at all in this situation.

This was certainly not the type of (lack of) support that I expected of a company such as Samsung and an issue that I expect Samsung to make right on.

Samsung responded that they can take a look at the tablet, but can’t guarantee that a repair is possible.

Thank you for your inquiry. We apologize for any inconvenience you have encountered in the troubleshooting process of your device. We understand repair issues occur and in this case can be quite unfortunate.

Typically, Samsung Telecommunications America is unable to provide information, technical support or repair services for models manufactured for use in other countries, as we do not have the components to provide this service. We can offer to bring in the unit for evaluation and software troubleshooting, however, we cannot guarantee a fix to the issue.

If the issue is determined to be hardware related, and cannot be repaired with software troubleshooting, we would advise contacting the seller directly for international warranty policies.

If you would like to proceed with evaluation please provide your physical mailing address, IMEI # and a copy of your proof of purchase receipt and we will arrange for a UPS premailer to be delivered to your home for the retrieval of your unit and shipment to Samsung.

Ruby isn’t an expert on electronics, but thinks that this is nonsense. Writing back to Consumerist, she complained:

[T]hat’s a pretty weak excuse as most (if not all) the parts in that phone is the same across international and US models and they could easily stock any differences. At the very least, given that they have a manufacturing defect where the phone just dies for no reason, they should replace the user’s phone with what models they have available.

What Is The Gray Market, And Why Should I Care?

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