Sunday, September 30, 2012

S'pore becomes conduit to lucrative black market after iPhone 5 launch

SINGAPORE: As one of the first countries where Apple's iPhone 5 has been launched, Singapore's become a conduit to a lucrative black market for the coveted product.

As Channel NewsAsia finds out, overseas traders are flocking to the country to buy the phones for resale, in their home countries.

On 20 September, the night before Apple's iPhone 5 official launch in Singapore, some in the crowd were foreign buyers - all players in a thriving iPhone black market.

Demand is especially high in countries where the smartphone hasn't been launched.

Channel NewsAsia has learnt the traders come from around the region, including Thailand and Vietnam.

And they make quick work of buying the phones.

Trader "Martin" said: "People fly to Singapore and Hong Kong and they queue for the iPhone 5 then they gather some Vietnamese youngsters in those countries and they get together and queue at the Apple stores. You have to hand carry the iPhone 5 into Vietnam. You can only buy four or five pieces."

To amass enough iPhone 5s, "Martin" revealed he has friends who fly to Singapore every day to buy the phones.

Back in Vietnam, an auction is held with the phones going for as high as double the original price.

A 64gb iPhone5 without contract retails for about S$1,200 in Singapore.

Such trading is also taking place within Singapore, as one iPhone buyer says.

Lee Jun Kiat says: "I was actually approached by this couple who offered to take over my iPhone 5 which I had just acquired from the launch event for S$1,100. They asked if I was keen to sell my iPhone and told me I could make quick cash out of it."

But one lawyer warns that such activity may be unlawful, especially when it involves unauthorised dealers.

George Hwang says: "When you're going to buy the hand phone yourself from an authorised dealer, and after one day, decide to sell it, there is no problem. However, when you buy it from third parties, and resell them, you could fall under the Secondhand Goods Dealers Act."

Mr Hwang says there is a list of items under the Act which requires a person to be licensed, to re-sell them.

This is to prevent the trading of stolen goods.

It gets tricky once the phones are overseas, as Singapore does not have jurisdiction in other countries.

A check with several retailers shows that there are safeguards in place, to prevent black market trading.

For example, limiting the number of handsets a customer can buy.

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