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Sales curbs to hit gray market for latest iPhone

By Wei Wei (China Daily)

13:23, September 24, 2012

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple appears to be more determined to crack down on unauthorized reselling. [Photo/China Daily]

Purchase restrictions that Apple Inc has placed on its latest iPhone are likely to have a major impact on unauthorized resellers when the devices go on sale on Friday.

When orders for the iPhone 5 began to be accepted in Hong Kong on Thursday, only two Apple retail stores in the city were selling them to customers selected by "an online reservation system".

Those allowed to buy either an "unlocked" iPhone - one that's not tied to any specific carrier's network - or one with a subscription contract could decide to have the device delivered or to pick it up at one of the two stores on Friday. But before they could complete their purchases, they also had to produce a government-issued ID, resellers said.

That requirement is likely to prove irksome to those who work in the so-called gray market, in which goods are sold legally but through unofficial channels. Since Wednesday, many resellers have been paying surrogate buyers to line up outside the stores, where they are to purchase the devices that will eventually be sold again on the gray market.

An unlocked iPhone has long been a popular item on the gray market, especially in countries where the latest Apple devices aren't for sale immediately after their introduction. With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple appears to have become more determined to crack down on unauthorized reselling.

Hong Kong will be a testing ground for the company's methods.

A reseller who didn't provide his name said he has found 200 people who want work for him as buyers. The ones he selects for that work can receive as much as 500 yuan ($80) after they provide him an iPhone they bought with his money.

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