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5 Things To Know About Buying Gadgets & Electronics Outside The UK

At first glance, buying items from outside the UK, especially from the US or from the Far East appears to be a very easy solution to make the most of your hard earned cash - but that doesn't mean there aren't some very real pitfalls.

1. The first obvious issue is actually buying the item given that there are actually so many retailers online, but so few offering the option to ship beyond their frontiers. Some, like, (opens in new tab) will ship worldwide but the final price, including shipping and posting, will vary according to how fast you want the item as well as its weight.

2. Buyers also need to research potential compatibility issues; electronic equipments purchased from the US for example have to comply normally with the local 110v voltage system whereas the UK power grid runs at 220v. High value devices like laptops or projectors should have worldwide adaptors - but you never know...

3. Then there's the fact that you may be faced with bank charges when buying from abroad. These include commission and unattractive conversion rates, something always worth accounting for when deciding whether or not to go ahead with the purchase.

4. Don't forget that all purchases above £20 may be slapped with the newly increased 20 per cent value added tax. Smaller items like an MP3 player or a high capacity USB drive are more likely to be ignored, but laptops and other high profile buys are almost certain to be taxed.

5. Finally (and possibly a deal breaker), what happens when things go wrong. If you buy an Apple notebook from the US, the company will service it in the UK (and anywhere else in the world) if there's anything wrong.

Unfortunately, not all companies share this policy, which means that you will be left with a massive "return to base" postage fee if something goes wrong as well as the prospect of being without it for longer than expected.

So does it still make sense to buy your stuff outside the UK? Only if it's not urgent, if it's not available here, costs significantly less and is unlikely to "break down".

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.