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Are You Buying from the Grey Market?

Are You Buying from the Grey Market? - The Beacon


By: Jason

Are You Buying from the Grey Market?

You are probably familiar with the term “black market” referring to items bought and sold illegally but your Better Business Bureau (BBB) would like to make sure you are aware of the term “grey market” (aka “gray market”). Grey market refers to buying (or selling) products not meant for distribution in your market, for example buying a product for use here in the U.S. that the manufacturer intended for distribution overseas. Unlike the black market, the term grey market refers to purchases that are legal but buying a product meant for sale overseas can still carry some risk. In our global economy many manufacturers now distribute their products to countries around the world and they often have to customize their products and guarantees to meet individual countries’ requirements.

Consumers typically encounter grey market issues when buying electronics or other high end products. The product appears to be the same as the one available here in the U.S., even the same manufacturer, but the consumer finds a great deal online (or from a friend living overseas) for the foreign version. The problem is that many manufacturers have different warranties for different countries. A product meant for a foreign market may carry a warranty that is not valid for U.S. consumers. If the consumer has a problem with the product they may find no protection from the warranty.

Also due to different electrical power grids around the world an electronic product may not be designed for U.S. voltage or amperage. The consumer may end up with a product that would function perfectly fine for the market it was designed for but will not function or may even incur damage from power outlets here. There are also a host of consumer protection laws and standards that differ between nations. Products for foreign distribution may or may not meet U.S. safety standards or requirements and may not be included in recalls. If a product were to be recalled in another country a consumer in the U.S. may or may not be aware of the recall and may not have any recourse to have the issue addressed.

If you are considering purchasing a product not intended for U.S. distribution make sure you do your homework and understand the risk involved. For more information you can trust visit your BBB at

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Jason was the Manager of Dispute Resolution Services with the BBB and primary handled consumer complaints. He also assisted consumers with business inquiries. He was a regular contributor to the blog.