Online Parts International

Asian Imports – to do or not to do

Asian Imports – not purchasing a white elephant

In today’s throwaway world it becomes enticing to purchase something cheaply because either you are cheap ūüôā or more importantly, if it doesn’t work you can just trash. ¬†There is of course a cut off point to what is cheap. A student may baulk at paying R200.00 for a gadget which Joe, the JSE executive would not dream of buying, opting for the Apple equivalent instead.

We will refer here to electronic goods and of course,  the South African market.

Electronics Kits - Arduino
Electronics Kits – Arduino

A little about the Consumer Protection Act

The numero uno of all purchases is that there has to be a guarantee of some sorts.  This is the #1 in the CPA.  #2 may reflect that a grey import has to be advertised as such.  A common misconception is that a grey import is not the real deal. In fact it could very well be but just not obtained through the usual channel. And then I would hasten to add that #3 is very important:  Buy from a reputed dealer and ensure the product has been tested to international standards. This could be SABS.  (#4 Рthis should not apply to the bogus SABS stickers).

Dangers of cheap power supplies

Our first port of call is going to be the humble PC power supply. Unbeknown to many this is a very sophisticated device and in all probability should not be mass produced in the cellar of your house but in an ISO certified factory. But this is not always the case. Buy reputed, get the guarantee and pay as much as you can afford. No short cuts here.  There is a reason why a PSU can cost you upwards of R500.00 compared to R200.00 for a 300W unit. If the PSU burns your house down who do you claim against? Which by the way you can with the CPA.


Counterfeit semiconductors. They have found their way on to the market as many horror stories on the internet will bear testament.  Often these semiconductors do work but fail at the first signs of stress.  Often these semiconductors are purchased very cheaply.  A lateral power MOSFET will be expensive.

Power leads

SANS protects the user against using appropriate power leads with non-RSA plug tops.  Check the earthing.  There are standards and there are standards.  We follow SANS.

Audio kits

Audio equipment is a strange one – often kits are very good quality. On eBay do look at the sellers credentials. Companies like Bang Good and Wish actually sell pretty much the same stuff, they also have a name to protect. My own dealings with both of these companies have come through friends, family and colleagues and the buyer has often been impressed by their purchases. Companies like Loot and Take-a-Lot are protective over their stock quality and if there is a complaint they are very proactive. This may not be the case with foreign purchases – it’s always a gamble.

Velleman – Europe and USA

Velleman is a reputed brand and service the DIY industry internationally. On a personal level I have never had a failure with any of their kits which includes audio amplifiers, speaker protectors,  DMX controllers and gadgety things. But Velleman is not of Asian descent. (I believe). Velleman also strategically protect their products with a 6 month warranty when used in a professional environment, so be warned. Communica is one of the official distributors of Velleman.

Limitations in the DIY sector

We do have a limitation as to electronic kit availability in South Africa. ¬†From a business perspective kits can be deemed as high risk because the seller does not ¬†know the ability of the user or customer. ¬† In this industry there are nightmare stories of same client types returning various kits “because they do not work”. ¬†Often there is a”no refund” policy on kits. I do not know well this sits with the CPA. ¬†Resellers should have some sort of protection themselves against abuse.


Shipping periods can be most unsatisfactory. Not only that, often there is no feedback. So stick to reputed sellers, ensure tracking numbers are given and where possible avoid the South African Postal Services Рinternational mail takes forever.  This is sometimes unavoidable Рif this is the case get insurance. PayPal can be a lifesaver.

Maths, Science and Electronics

Lastly, it’s just a matter of time before we get an Asian “electronics” supermarket opening in one of the major centres. I have had the privilege of visiting a “computer” store in Taipei and the quality, quantity and type of stock beggars belief. ¬†(all electronics, not just computer). South African academics are begging the education authorities to improve our level of maths and science at schools. ¬†This should be a pressure point. Where are the venture capitalists? ¬†Edu-Electronics stores across the land to promote electronics at an affordable levels for all from the age of 8 and up.



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