What is the ‘grey market’ and how to avoid getting scammed when online shopping

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HARTFORD — If you’ve done any online shopping lately, the The Connecticut Better Business Bureau has a warning for you. You may have bought something off the “grey market” and not even realized it.

Most products can be found online in what is know as the grey market, but shoppers end up getting less than they bargained for.

This means your purchase may come with no warranty and may not be manufactured according to US regulatory standards. This applies to everything from electronics, to toys, and apparel that could fail flammability regulations.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau is offering buyers five tips to protect themselves when making an online purchase from an unfamiliar website:

  1. Research the seller and website you are purchasing from. If you buy through an auction site, check the seller’s ratings and reviews.
  2. Be sure to ask the seller about the merchandise. Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection requires sellers to disclose when an item is not covered by a valid US warranty.
  3. Carefully inspect the merchandise to make sure it is in working order. Checking to see whether the manual and printed material are in English is also important.
  4. Ask where the item can competently be repaired. Grey market merchandise will likely not be eligible for repair by the manufacturer’s authorized service center.
  5. Pay with your credit card. If there’s a problem, such as the merchandise being misrepresented online, you can dispute the charges.

Some buyers prefer to take their chances and shell out $250 for a $1000 watch. But like cheap counterfeit knockoffs, grey market merchandise is often not worth the price you pay.

Back in April, FOX 61’s Katie Corrado took a look at fast-fashion clothing sites accused of deceiving their customers. The sites are meant to draw in consumers through Facebook advertising, promising stylish clothes at a big discount.

Much like these sites, grey markets contain several potential problems for buyers. For example, if you buy from an unfamiliar website or a classified ad the goods may be stolen or broken. It is important to be aware of private sales too, as they offer no protection to the buyer.