The hazards of buying tools online
It should be noted that there are many fantastic websites out there selling quality goods – including major manufacturers who choose to sell their own products directly. But there is a growing trend where consumers are looking to overseas websites in the belief they are saving even more money by avoiding local taxes or purchasing items not available locally.
In these circumstances, there will always be some risk that you are never entirely sure of what you are buying until it arrives in the post. Now, when you’re talking about a book there’s not a great amount of danger involved, but it is altogether different when you hear about tradies buying power tools online in the hope of saving some dollars or in the belief that they are moving up to a better model.
There are a multitude of potential issues when buying a power tool from an unknown online source, but they all come back to one point: you really don’t know what you’re buying. This can lead to (inadvertently) purchasing a tool that is not up to the job, has inferior workmanship, or has no warranty and aftersales support.
Richard White is the senior brand manager (Bosch Blue) of Bosch Power Tools Australia. He says there are three common problems when buying a power tool online:
1. The tool may be an unknown foreign brand and therefore be an unknown quantity in respect to workmanship and parts quality.
2. The tool may not be made for Australian conditions.
3. The tool may actually be a counterfeit copy.
The unknown brand
Many people fall into the trap of purely looking at the specs of a power tool when deciding which model to go for; however, as we have written many times before in Electrical Connection, there are many factors that go into making a quality product.
“Any two products can have the same specs, but end up poles apart as final products,” explains Richard.
“The research undertaken in development, the raw materials used to manufacture in the first place, and the quality control in assembly are all fundamental factors in the production of a good tool. Unfortunately, because a lot of this is hidden inside the casing, most people will really only know how well it performs when it’s in their hands or on the site.
“Reputable brands build up trust with the user over time, and obviously you don’t get that same guarantee of quality when you purchase an unknown brand.”
Not made for Australian conditions
Even within reputable brands there are products that are made for local conditions and local uses only. Therefore, it is very important to check that the tool you are looking to buy has been made for the Australian market.
This is an issue across the entire construction industry. Many manufacturers make products and equipment to suit the local environment. That is not to suggest that they are poorly made goods, but the needs and expectations will vary for the intended country.
“We have a range of products at Bosch that are made exclusively for the American market,” explains Richard citing just one example.
“Not only is there a risk that the product may not stand up as well as you would expect under the local conditions, there is also the possibility that we won’t have the spare parts available to offer you support.”
As such, the warranty with many power tools companies only cover items made for the market in which they are sold.
Of course, the other issue in this circumstance is that you could be using a tool that does not actually meet Australian Standards. By definition, this is against the law – something that you don’t want to encounter should you need to make an insurance claim.
It’s always a bit of fun to come back from Bali with a dozen Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts for your mates and then wait as they inevitably fall apart. However, when a ‘reputable brand’ power tool fails, only for you to find out it is a counterfeit copy and therefore has no valid warranty … well, it’s not so amusing.
“At Bosch, we think it is quite easy to pick a knockoff. Our casing and rubber grips are quite complicated in design and very difficult to replicate – however, you obviously have to see the tool in person to be able to pick that,” says Richard.
“The biggest problem here is, quite literally, the dangers within. Even when you get a very good copy of a reputable brand, the outside skin may appear very similar but you have no idea what the internals will be. Again, you have the same problems; the likelihood of failure in performance, and also the inability to get spare parts to fit the tool.”
In this current economic climate it is only natural to want to save a few dollars wherever you can. Undoubtedly, there are a number of very good online sites where you can purchase quality products, but unfortunately there are also many less reputable sites importing items that expose you to risk. And there are some items where that risk has more consequences than others.
It’s not just that the product ‘may fail’; there is also the issue of obtaining spare parts and a lack of support.
“I think a lot of people are now almost in the habit of buying online when it comes to books or CDs but don’t necessarily consider the implications when it comes to something like electrical goods,” says Richard.
“The thing that I find strange is that most tradies I know like to hold the tool before they buy so they can genuinely feel how it is in their hands – so I think it’s a case of just reminding them of the risk.”