By Emeka Aginam, Bridget Amaraegbu & Emmanuel Elebeke
Efforts to fight grey marketing and faking of IT products and peripherals may not have yielded the expected results, even as theÂ hardware marker,Â Hewlett Packard (HP) and the software giant, Microsoft have said that the ugly trendÂ is costing Nigeria huge sums in foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as research and development.
A grey market is the trade in a commodity through distribution channels which, while not illegal, are unofficial, unauthorized, or unintended by the original manufacturer. In contrast, a black market is the trade in goods and services that are illegal in themselves and/or distributed through illegal channels, such as the selling of stolen goods, certain drugs or unregistered handguns, or contraband.
Globally from 2005-2008, according to statistics,Â HP conducted 4,620 investigations in 55 countries resulting in 3,528 enforcement actions (raids and seizures by authorities), seizing a total value of more than US $795 million worth of counterfeit HP supplies products.
While announcing fresh battle against the ugly trend in Anglophone West Africa, which has continued to cause more economic harm than good, Jason McMillan told IT journalists in a press conference last week that Nigeria is an important market in IT industry, adding that battle against perpetrators of this ugly trend has remained a challenge.
â€œWe in this campaign to protect our brand across the globe. It is a criminal offence to fake HP products. We are enlightening consumers on what to look out before buying any HP product.. Retailers and partners must buy from the right channels. That is the point we are trying to makeâ€ he said, adding that HP will not relent in the fight against fake products coming in through grey market.
Similarly, the General Manager, Personal Systems Group, HP Nigeria, Chioma Iwuchukwu-Nweke, Africa is an area where organized fake and grey markets are rampant, prompting HP and Microsoft to develop a comprehensive defence strategy to alert consumers on the dangers of partaking in the purchase of grey and fake products.
She noted that grey market drains millions ofÂ revenue andÂ profit from Information Technology (IT) market worldwide, adding that when original equipment manufacturers want to take decisions relating to foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as research and development,Â they always believe that a huge portion of the volume of IT hardware trade in NigeriaÂ is done on the grey market which are not recorded
Stressing the need for government and regulatory authorities to put in place measures that would help in checkmating the activities of smugglers and brand imitators to help the technology market develop rapidly, she said thatÂ Nigeria remains a huge market for IT products.
â€œTraders in the Otigba Computer Village buy IT products worth millions of dollars from countries like Dubai, United Kingdom (UK) and China. These original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have no idea of how much of theirÂ products are being sold in Nigeria because they were sold outside the approved distribution channels.
â€œGrey market is the illegal selling of HP products where the company did not intend to sell them. Due to the extremely high level of consumers that buy from the grey and fake market, this costs Nigeria the loss of job opportunities, foreign direct investment in businesses as well as a loss of research and development funding,â€ she said.
For the Channel Compliance Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Uzo Okpaka, who also spoke at the event, she saidÂ Microsoft Nigeria wasÂ also joining in the fight against unauthentic products.
â€œMicrosoft is currently driving several initiatives to curb software piracy in the Nigerian market. These initiatives are hinged on educating both end users and Microsoft partners on the value of using â€œGenuine Productsâ€ she added. Early this year, according to her,Â Microsoft launched the Clean Dealer programme where partners went into an agreement to promote the sale of genuine software and committed to refrain from selling counterfeits.
â€œMicrosoft is supporting such resellers by promoting them as primary sources for our software especially in the very popular Computer Village in Lagos. Microsoft is focusing on educating the end users by initiating a Certificate of Authenticity campaign which is currently running.
The Certificate of Authenticity is a physical way of identifying if genuine software has been installed in a PC. It is a sticker that is visible underneath or on the PC as the case may be.
â€œThis year, Microsoft has trained over 800 partners on the value of genuine software and how to become trusted advisors to their customers. The company is actively working to protect customers who have fallen victim of software pirates and who have reported such cases to Microsoft. By working closely with the local enforcement agency Nigeria Copyright Commission it enables Microsoft to carry out legal actions against the perpetrators.
â€œIn March we have gone a step further by opening an Information Centre in the Computer Village at Ikeja that will give customers and partners, access to information on where to buy â€œGenuine Productsâ€ from, also serve as a training centre for our partners who are located in the villageâ€ Okpaka said..
Also speaking, HP’s Marketing Manager, Personal Systems Group (PSG) Akunna Abadom, noted thatÂ â€œHP is launching an all out campaign against the grey and fake market. The campaign will include a consistent rotation of advertorials, press briefings/releases and radio advertisements on educating consumers in the English West Africa region.
â€œ The objective of this campaign is to enhance awareness on the acceptable means of purchasing HP computers. A successful execution of this much needed initiative will result in a direct reduction in consumers patronizing unauthorized sellers of unauthentic HP products in the region.
â€œHP also is in the process of training their preferred distributors, retailers and partners on the importance of selling authentic HP products. This awareness is meant to further enhance HPâ€™s message to the HP preferred partners (resellers) and consumers that HP cares about the consumer and the way HP products are being represented and sold in the English West African region.â€Abadom added.
In addition to the grey and fake advertisements, HP, Abadom said has taken a further step to protect and ensure the authenticity of their computers by developing an ultra sensitive certified security tag.
â€œ HP computers and accessories purchased from the authorised channels will be clearly marked with this certified security tag in order to alert consumers that they are purchasing an authentic HP product. Purchasing from the HP authorised channel will ensure consumers that the product being purchased is authentic and the product will receive all of the after sales services and support that it is entitled toâ€Abadom explained.
For one thing, withÂ Â cooperation and support from laws enforcement authorities, it is expected thatÂ Â HP and Microsoft will win the war against fake products to the barest minimum.