Ask LH: Are Kogan's 'International' Smartphones Safe To Use In Australia?

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Dear Lifehacker, is it worthwhile getting a Samsung Galaxy S8+ from Kogan or Dick Smith? I believe they are selling international or "grey import" smartphones. Are there any problems I need to know about regarding warranty, chargers, etc? Thanks, Galaxy Buyer

Dear GB,

Kogan - and its sister site Dick Smith - sell imported smartphone models in addition to stock specifically earmarked for Australia by the manufacturer. This is clearly outlined on Kogan's website:

We work hard to partner with global distributors to bring you the latest items at the best possible prices, meaning some products we sell are an equivalent international model. By cutting out the middleman, we’re often able to sell the world’s biggest brands (like Apple, Samsung and Nikon) for significantly cheaper than local retailers.

You can find out whether Kogan is selling the local or international model by checking the product listing for a 'Direct Import' banner. This usually appears below the product photos near the top of the page.

For the most part, grey import smartphones are fine to use in Australia. The main issue is ensuring that our LTE bands are supported by the device. However, you can rest assured that anything sold by a local vendor (such as Kogan) will work as advertised over here.

Another issue facing importers is the charging accessories that come packaged with the device. Obviously, a phone charger manufactured for European or American markets won't plug into an Australian AC outlet and vice-versa.

Kogan gets around this problem by substituting the overseas adaptor for an "AU/NZ Compliant Generic Charger". We haven't tested these Kogan-supplied chargers so can't vouch for their quality. However, we suspect they're probably not as fast as Samsung's, which is something to keep in mind.

You don't need to concern yourself about warranty either. Merchants remain beholden to Australia's consumer protection laws, even when selling international products. All Kogan and Dick Smith products come with a minimum one-year Australian Standard Care Warranty.

Kogan also provides options for Extended Care, but as we've explained in the past, these are a bit of a rort. When the fault lies with the manufacturer, most 'big ticket' items like TVs and smartphones are still covered for repairs outside the nominal warranty period. So pocket the money instead!

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    One caveat: you're relying on the vendor for tech support, returns, etc., as the manufacturer might not be able to offer warranty repairs locally. (Something about non-Oz IMEI codes or similar, I was told by Samsung about a Galaxy Nexus)

    The level of support you get is dependent on how responsive their overseas supplier is. I was burned by ShoppingSquare.com.au and had to work hard and threaten legal action to get a refund after my faulty phone disappeared for months.

    Most Australian manufacturers give 2 yrs warranty as well. Also I've seen a friend's Samsung pay not work cos it's international model.

    Unfortunately, the article was misleading to say that "Merchants remain beholden to Australia's consumer protection laws, even when selling international products". When purchasing products on Kogan.com.au, items can be supplied by either Kogan Australia Pty Ltd ABN 53 152 570 351 (Kogan Australia) or Kogan HK Limited (Company Registration Number: 1659337 and ABN: 51 158 959 794) registered in Hong Kong.

    For grey import items that I've come across on Kogan.com.au, they all had the line "This Product is offered and supplied by Kogan HK Limited pursuant to the Terms and Conditions" in small print just above the specifications tab. It should also be noted that on the Warranty Terms and Conditions page on Kogan.com.au, the term "KHK product" (Kogan HK product) was followed by ""(as the case may be)", which literally means "according to the circumstances" or "as appropriate to the circumstances".

    It should also be noted that while section 22 of Warranty Terms stated that "Our goods come with guarantees that cannot be excluded under the Australian Consumer Law. You are entitled to a replacement or refund for a major failure and compensation for any other reasonably foreseeable loss or damage. You are also entitled to have the goods repaired or replaced if goods fail to be of acceptable quality and the failure does not amount to a major failure.
    Kogan can be contacted by telephone at 1300 304 292 or via the Help Center.
    Kogan's head office is located at 139 Gladstone Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205.", section 21 of the Warranty Terms also stated that "Insofar as they apply to warranties relating to KHK Products supplied by Kogan HK, these Standard Care Warranty and Extended Care Terms and Conditions are governed by and must be construed according to the law of Hong Kong and the parties submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of Hong Kong". This may mean that Kogan HK may not fall under the jurisdiction of the Australian Consumer Law and thus the protection ACL can offer to consumers in this scenario may potentially be limited.

    My wife and I have both bought phones from Kogan. The generic chargers are not amazing. Expect to have to replace it within about 12 months. Otherwise no problems.

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