Unlike black market goods, grey-market goods are legal. However, they are sold outside normal distribution channels by companies which may have no relationship with the producer of the goods. Frequently this form of parallel import occurs when the price of an item is significantly higher in one country than another. This situation commonly occurs with electronic equipment such as cameras. Entrepreneurs buy the product where it is available cheaply, often at retail but sometimes at wholesale, and import it legally to the target market. They then sell it at a price high enough to provide a profit but under the normal market price. International efforts to promote free trade, including reduced tariffs and harmonized national standards, facilitate this form of arbitrage whenever manufacturers attempt to preserve highly disparate pricing. Because of the nature of grey markets, it is difficult or impossible to track the precise numbers of grey-market sales. Grey-market goods are often new, but some grey market goods are used goods. A market in used goods is sometimes nicknamed a Green Market.
The parties most concerned with the grey market are usually the authorized agents or importers, or the retailers of the item in the target market. Often this is the national subsidiary of the manufacturer, or a related company. In response to the resultant damage to their profits and reputation, manufacturers and their official distribution chain will often seek to restrict the grey market. Such responses can breach competition law, particularly in the European Union. Manufacturers or their licensees often seek to enforce trademark or other intellectual-property rights against the grey market. Such rights may be exercised against the import, sale and/or advertisement of grey imports.
In 2002, Levi Strauss, after a 4-year legal fight, prevented UK supermarket Tesco from selling grey market jeans. However, such rights can be limited. Examples of such limitations include the first-sale doctrine in the United States and the doctrine of the exhaustion of rights in the European Union.
Manufactures power towards the Grey Market
* When grey-market products are advertised on Google, eBay or other legitimate web sites, it is possible to petition for removal of any advertisements that violate trademark or copyright laws. This can be done directly, without the involvement of legal professionals. eBay , for example, will remove listings of such products even in countries where their purchase and use is not against the law.
* Manufacturers may refuse to supply distributors and retailers (and with commercial products, customers) that trade in grey-market goods.
* They may also more broadly limit supplies in markets where prices are low. Manufacturers may refuse to honour the warranty of an item purchased from grey-market sources, on the grounds that the higher price on the non-grey market reflects a higher level of service even though the manufacturer does of course control their own prices to distributors.
* Alternatively, they may provide the warranty service only from the manufacturer's subsidiary in the intended country of import, not the diverted third country where the grey goods are ultimately sold by the distributor or retailer. This response to the grey market is especially evident in electronics goods.
Identifying the Grey Market Product
* Manufacturers may give the same item different model numbers in different countries, even though the functions of the item are identical, so that they can identify grey imports.
* Manufacturers can also use batch codes to enable similar tracing of grey imports. Parallel market importers often de-code the product in order to avoid the identification...