Courts ban CD Wow's 'grey' imports

5 February 2004
More legal news

05 February 2004 | Simon Binns

The UK courts have delivered another landmark ruling against parallel importing by banning an online compact disc retailer from buying cheap goods from outside Europe.

CD Wow buys official CDs directly from the record companies through its Asian arm, then sells them online for significantly less than other UK retailers.

However, the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) claimed that CD Wow was parallel or "grey" importing, referring to a supplier buying items in one country and shipping them to a second, where the brand owner would charge a higher price.

CD Wow agreed out of court to stop importing from outside the European Economic Area and has increased prices by an average of £2 per disc.

The case follows Levi Strauss's landmark victory in 2001, which banned Tesco from importing their jeans from Eastern Europe to UK stores on the grounds that it would taint the brand.

Phil Robinson, CD Wow's chief executive, said: "Whereas Tesco was importing jeans and putting them on sale in its stores, we are providing a service where people can buy in Hong Kong and arrange a personal import."

Phil Evans, principal policy adviser at the Consumers' Association, said: "It's a travesty that an industry can segment the global market and charge higher prices in some parts than others."

The BPI is now investigating the practices of online retailers and Amazon.


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