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To buy or not from overseas ?

Introduction (I)

Nowadays the electronic trade (e-trade) became a very easy way to made his purchases on Internet. One find everything on the Web and even products that are unobtainable in traditional shops. There are several ways to secure paiments, of which the surest is the credit card at FINREAD standards.

According to a 2016 survey in Belgium, 70% of Belgians bought at least one item over the Internet and one in two bought an article on a foreign web site. According to a 2010 survey from Oseox, 80% of online purchases are realized by the age group 35-49 years, followed by 24-34 years, and 50-64 years old. For the majority of us, online trading is thus entered in the customs.

It is also true in matter of electronics and optics. All amateurs do not live near a specialized store. If as far as possible customers visit the shop to select their materials and discuss with the seller, it is not always possible when this last lives hundreds of kilometers away or overseas. In this case, the product is ordered by Internet and can come from all over the world.

However, european statistics state that one e-buyer on five has experimented problems and that 12.5% of e-buyers will no more make any buy by Internet. This fact highlights the main problem of Internet and the one of any purchase made remotely : what to do in case of administrative problem or hardware failure ?

If it is fiendishly easy to click on the "Add to basquet" button or "Order in 1-click" to place an order, better is worth to think about it two minutes before making a stupid thing on a sudden impulse. Here are the reasons.

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All amateurs living outside the U.S.A., mainly European, quickly note that U.S. prices are very attractive. The same difference also exists for American's wishing to buy german brands... usually 30 to 50% cheaper over their local dealers ! But have you thought about charges and potential maintenance if you want to import some items directly from overseas or simpler from another country ?

Before planning any purchase abroad via Internet, let's already see what happens locally, at the national level when you get in trouble for administrative reasons, when a device is not conform or fails to work. If in theory there should have no relationship, the experience shows that the problem will emphase if the distance or the language barrier has to be taken into account. These are these different conditions that will be review.

From the advertising to the sales contract

Before placing any order via the Internet, check in detail the quality of the seller and product availability : it is not because a product is displayed in an online catalog that it is till available. Many web sites are outdated and sometimes the product is no more marketed for several years ! But to find out, before validating any order, it is necessary that you contact the seller or his customer service to get the information. Better worth an excess of caution than paying an product no more available with all possible harassments to get your money back.

Generally speaking, if you don't get an answer after a few days (any seller has right to be out of his office a few days for commercial or private reasons), consider that the company does not offer a very performing customer servicing or hides doubtful practices. The product is maybe withdrawn despite misleading appearances of the web site. Some companies also update their pages once a month or each quarter.

As an example, I asked to a canadian manufacturer who listed among his representatives a dealer in Spain slow to answer to my requests, if frankly it was worth to work with his spanish dealer if he wanted to make profit. He answered me.... that he worked only with the English dealer !

At other occasions you can't get any information contacting the dealer by email and only the manufacturer will sometimes accept to help you. In worst cases call him by phone; he could not escape.

In another field, I have known the case of a French company working by Internet and registering copyrights which prices were so-called the cheapest on the place, 10 € to protect a website although a notary requests 13 € for the same registering plus important charges. However, the comment was limited and confused as it didn't give the price according to the volume of information to protect. I wanted to get more information. At the end they comply with my request, recognizing that the information was uncomplete, after what they make two small corrections in their internal pages of their website. Obviously, it changed their price, multiplying the price of the registry of a 10 factor or higher ! At the end, for a volume larger than 700 MB, this company is even more expensive than others !

Thus, be wary in particular of any reseller working only by email or on the Internet. Check first the importers list provided by the manufacturer and then take the time for assessing the vendor quality.

To read : The windle of Sale Telescopes, Cloudy Nights

After have selected your product, if you don't know the manufacturer or the dealer, read with attention your order *before* validation or signing, specially the name of people involved, the date, the description, the quantity, the price, the sale conditions, including the warranty terms, often written in small cases.

Why so many precautions ? Because in trading matter, the ignorance of the law is no excuse, and if the seller does not explain you all the details of the order and the service offered, ask yourself the information at risk to be surprised or disappointed by an unattended condition like a not appropriate guarantee. As we say in such cases, forewarned is forearmed.

If you buy the product to a major dealer by Internet there are few problems to expect. But in all cases, take your time as the product will be probably still available tomorrow at the same price or even cheaper. Read all information listed in the ordering section, how to pay, to get confirmation of your order, what charges will be added to the price, what is the delivery time, what are conditions, etc. Accept the deal only when you are sure to have well understood all the process, not to forget to read charges for handling and shipping, litigation proceedings, etc. In the negative send an email to the seller and ask him for more detail.

With bordering countries or even inside your own country, the situation is the same. The shopkeeper can favor its direct customers to the detriment of email contacts. You wait, and wait, without never receive any news, although a direct contact, by phone or de visu, would have allowed you to solve the question. It is valid for any enterprise working on the Internet, but specially for the smallest companies often overloaded.

When the order is confirmed and sent, don't forget to save or to print a copy of the confirmation and later to attach it your account notice. This will make searches easier and will serve as proof in case of contention.

In the past, buying a secondhand device on ebay for example was a business at risk; more than once we learned that a buyer was confronted with a swindler or in prey to major troubles to get his material or his money back. Hopefully, with time and new controls put in place, the problem became trivial.

But sometimes Internet places a true wall between you and the seller and only a justice decision can solve the contention. So, be aware of the potential dangers of e-trade before making any purchase on the Internet.

Good news, statistically in 80% of online purchases, the transaction is successful... but this will not prevent your material to fail for one or another reason...

A-S servicing and the standard way of repair

The broken corrector lens of a NexStar 11 GPS; fragile, the thin lens didn't support a too high pressure. Document Company7.

Most of the time your material is covered with a legal or commercial warranty signed by the manufacturer, and recognized by his dealer or the importer at national level.

But already at this step there are two possible cases. In the first case the shopkeeper signed a contract with the manufacturer stating that he will ensure the after sale support only for products bought in his shop. All other articles will be refused, and you will have to ensure yourself the mail or shipment of your defective material to the manufacturer.

However many sellers will accept to infringe this rule in repairing your device for commercial reasons. If there is no importer in your country, in this case this is the manufacturer warranty that will draw its effects in the event of breakdown. In both cases this warranty is attached the the purchase invoice (on as an attachment to the bill itself).

Let's imagine that you ask the seller to whom your bought your material to repair it. Depending on his attitude you will quickly recognize the well organized seller from the casual one. Unfortunately you will not discover this fact at the first handshaking but rather with experience and sometimes by the rumour.

Here also there are two possibilities. Either the shopkeeper can pay a full-time or part-time qualified technician. In this case the repair will be carried out in the repair desk of his shop. Taking into account his planning and the technical difficulty, the time of repairing can be spread out over several days or several weeks. Indeed, several factors come into play.

If it is a hardware failure it will be necessary to get some spare parts from stock. But nowadays, to avoid useless investments and expenses, the shopkeeper does not have much stock and will have to order the part to the importer or directly to the manufacturer, living sometimes abroad.

Avvid repair desk. Document KA5IPF.

The repair desk of an electronician.

But it happens that the manufacturer refuses the exchange for only one unit and obliges the shopkeeper to make a grouped order. This exposes you to an additional delay from 1 to 2 weeks, time required for the shopkeeper to gather all his orders. In the worst case your material will thus be returned to you after 2 or 3 weeks only.

In the second case your shopkeeper is not able to carry out the repair. If he is well organized and serious and if he has technical skills he will already make a preliminary test to ensure himself of the breakdown. The same day or the next one he will send your material to the importer for repair. But quite often, your material will remain in a corner waiting for other parcels which finally will be sent a week or even 10 days later in grouped form. Sometimes this time is ascribable to the extra work of the technician or worse, simply due to his casualness; Mister is on holidays and will deal with his customers only when he will come back... but he will perhaps not tell you that. If it is conscientious he will inform you of his holiday period and will send your material immediately to the importer. Thus ask him precisely when your equipment will be repaired or sent to the importer.

Sometimes it is the only way to enter into contact with the importer. A few years ago many major manufacturers had a national trading post at which you could directly deposit your defective equipment for repair. For financial reasons this support is often abandoned to the profit of the dealers network.

Once arrived to the importer your material will be repaired, more or less quickly according to the gravity of the problem. An application form attesting of the failure and repairs carried out, and sometimes taking in account the tests carried out and their results will be joined to the material like proof of accomplished work.

If repair desk technicians show true skills, we cannot always say the same about the organization of after sale departments. This also depends on the enterprise culture.

The material will be then returned to the shopkeeper... if all is fine, because sometimes, but fortunately in rare occasions, the parcel can be mislaid, what will delay its return from one week to 10 open days. The time spent increases thus from 3 to 4 weeks to which we have to add the preliminary week of useless waiting. 

Finally we arrive at an overall delay that can exceed one month if "all goes wrong"... And your beautiful material hasn't even left the country !

At receipt check well that the repair was made. It will not be the last time that a defective material is returned to his owner... in the same state.

That said, legally Europe required that repairs be performed within one month. Unfortunatelly, periodically messages posted on newsgroups remind us that some shopkeepers do not respect the law.

I do not even discuss here the legal aspect, when the device is brand new but presents an obvious dysfunction. In this case you must request from the seller a standard exchange due to the nonconformity against the purchase order.

This assertion is not always easily accepted by your seller who will probably invoke the fact that you misread the user manual or did an error in setting the device...

If this case happens, ask him with much diplomacy to visit you as soon as possible to state the fact, and try to negociate a fast exchange. In the worst case, an amateurs informed me that he recently has to wait for a standard exchange during... 1 year, simply because his local seller didn't believe him ! In the end the amateur won out and the faulty instrument was returned in the U.S.A. for standard exchange. In the meantime he was left without instrument...

Second part

Time for consideration and claim

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