Keen photographer Garry Fleming was gutted when a Nikon camera he bought in France went wrong but wasn’t covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee.
Garry, 45, bought the Nikon DSLR 810 semi- professional camera from an independent photographic store in Marseilles last May, during a short break to visit his sister Jackie.
The Portsmouth care worker was more than pleased with his purchase.
The £1,900 camera was a whopping £400 cheaper than he could buy it in the UK – a considerable saving.
However, there were signs all may not have been well when he went online to register his purchase with Nikon – the camera’s serial number wasn’t recognised.
It turned out to be a ‘grey’ parallel import, not intended for sale in Europe but the Far East, thus invalidating the product guarantee.
An astonished Garry explained: ‘I confess I wasn’t all that worried at the time. Nikon cameras are recognised the world over for their robustness and reliability, so I didn’t give it much thought.
‘It was only a couple of months down the line when it stopped functioning correctly and randomly kept shutting down that I realised its significance.
‘Because of the language barrier, I got my sister Jackie to contact the shop to ask about getting it sorted or a refund.
‘But she ended up having a blazing row with them when they point blank refused to listen.
‘The manager claimed I’d been told at the time I bought it the camera was competitively-priced because it was a ‘grey’ import, and I should have asked about buying a separate guarantee.’
Garry‘s inability to communicate effectively with the shop left him confused and frustrated.
Jackie had already done all she could to help him, but he was reluctant to subject her to further abusive and confrontational behaviour.
Then a friend told him about Streetwise, so an exasperated Garry got in touch on the off chance we might be able to help.
We first checked out Nikon’s worldwide guarantee arrangements.
They confirmed, that in line with other top mainstream camera manufacturers, product warranties were invalidated if the camera was parallel imported into Europe.
We also discovered not only were there significant software variations for ‘grey’ camera imports and lenses, but upgrades and hardware fixes aren’t readily available.
After discussing the situation with Jackie, we got on to the shop and spoke to a Laurent Deniau, who said he was the manager.
We explained the situation and pointed out that Gary was entitled to a refund under French law, as consumer protection provisions were the same throughout the European Union.
But Monsieur Deniau was not in a co-operative frame of mind.
He said Garry knew perfectly well the camera was a bargain precisely because it was a grey import, and was compensated in the price for the absence of the product guarantee. He was invited to buy a separate guarantee, but Garry declined to accept it.
When we insisted it was Garry’s right to a repair or refund irrespective of the Nikon product guarantee, the conversation was abruptly ended with a barrage of expletives, some of which bore an uncanny resemblance to English versions.
We decided to have words with the French consumer rights enforcement experts the DGCCRF, and enlist their help with Garry’s dispute.
The DGCCRF is a mind-blowing acronym for the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes – the équivalent of the UK trading standards service.
A spokesperson confirmed that, unlike the UK, they could take a more interventionist role in resolving consumer disputes.
After we sent them a statement from Garry, they agreed to email us with official complaint documentation.
We translated it for Garry and helped him fill in the paperwork .
Within a few days Garry sent it back and awaited developments.
Then towards mid-August things began to look up.
Out of the blue sister Jackie received a concillatory phone call from the shop with a surprise change of tune. Boss M Deniau said he was prepared to refund Garry after all.
If he sent the camera back undamaged in its original packaging, he would personally arrange for a refund direct to Garry’s credit card account.
We advised Garry to return the camera by DHL’s international express courier service. Ten days later he was relieved to find his credit card account had been refunded in full.
A jubilant Garry said: ‘I can’t begin to thank you enough for all the help and support you gave us. I firmly believed I’d never see my money again.
‘Not only did you help me overcome the language problem, you knew exactly what to do and who to contact to get the matter sorted without having to engage a foreign lawyer.
‘We were way out of our depth and didn’t know which way to turn.
‘The service you provided was fantastic.
‘Thanks again for everything.’