Thursday, October 7, 2010

Consumer advice from.... the land of the zloty?

My first clue that I was reading tech product reviews on a site outside of the US was when I read words along the line - 'when the difference in price is something like 1,500 Polish Zloty". At first, not having heard of zlotys before, I thought it was a wind up. That was until I ran across the zloty again on another page and more thoroughly investigated the website.

Sure enough, I was reading sophisticated camera lens reviews on a Polish website, If you're in the market for a camera lens, check it out. Unlike a number of the others on this subject that I have visited, this one is full of lab test information on optical and mechanical performance, as well as commentary on performance in the field.

So, after buying a new camera body in Singapore en route from Thailand, I am sourcing information from a Polish website on the performance of products made in the USA, Malaysia and China. To round off this global shopping experience, I am a consumer based in Australia! And if I buy off ebay, then I could well source the purchase in Hong Kong or Taiwan (then again, I probably won't!).

Apart from the obvious implications for retailers, this experience raises an interesting point about how so-called international warranty undertakings have fallen behind borderless consumerism. Given that we consumers do shop globally, when are the 'big brand' manufacturers going to offer truly international warranty on their products? I went to register my camera purchase on the manufacturer's website in Australia and couldn't because I'd bought in Singapore. When I tried to register on the Singapore site, it wouldn't let me because I wasn't a resident of Singapore.

What a nonsense this is. I bought exactly the same product, same specification and, I believe, one substantially priced the same, if you ignore taxes and duties, as I would have done in Australia. So what makes warranties less valid on a product across national boundaries?

If we're happy to distibute globally, then we should be able to offer appropriate customer protection globally, despite the considerable variations in consumer protection legislation between nations, or some bean counter's neat international accounting structure.

If we could be fearless about the validity of warranties, then we could all buy genuine brands over the web or on our travels confident about the integrity of product and service that go with the brand.

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