Recently Britain’s "DIVER" magazine did a review of retail websites for divers around the world.
Below is the review in its entirety of the only two websites that they reviewed in North America:


DIVERSDISCOUNT.COM
(also known as SCUBA.COM)
Operates from: California. The home page has a 1-800 toll free number that can be accessed only from the USA, but full contact details were provided elsewhere on a page that was easy to find.
Reply to e-mail: A pro-forma detailing FAQs about online purchases addressed to those who had already made a purchase. It answered lots of questions but not mine, especially with regards to issues raised in buying from the USA while in the UK.
Privacy policy: Full explanation of how my details would be kept confidential.
Warranty / return: What appeared to be a customer-orientated returns policy that extends to 30 days for any reason at all, though shipping charges would not be refunded. This page also included a surprising statement to the effect that the customer should not take Divers Discount's word or anyone else's that it was an authorized dealer and should contact the manufacturer. Full contact details were provided.
FAQ: Just about all the questions that could be asked by a US-based purchaser, though it was not so orientated towards international purchases, for example, on servicing or repair of goods.
Price promise: The Company indicated, with an in-depth explanation, that it would beat any authorized or unauthorized dealers' quotes, including gray goods. Unlike many UK companies who only promise to match (and, as I have demonstrated in the Mystery Diver column, even this can turn out to be an unreliable claim) it indicated that it would refund 150% of the difference.
Ordering: Shopping cart system in use, easy to understand layout on the page with padlock and an https address line.
Summary: This seemed to be an industry-standard site, with more than 500 pages of goods with apparently excellent discounts and descriptions. The human touch had been introduced wherever possible - for example, store instructors would assemble regulators to manufacturers' recommendations before they were dispatched. Let down only by the impersonal reply to my initial enquiry, it scored 8/10
(Editors note: Highest rating in North America)

 


LEISUREPRO.COM
Operates from: New York, full contact details provided.
Reply to e-mail: Yes - see below.
Privacy policy: Full and explicit, though I had to dig around the site a bit to find it.
Warranty / return: On the surface there seemed to be a full explanation of how goods could be shipped internationally and returned within a 14-day no-questions period.
However, this was made more complicated by small print that indicated that a five-day returns policy applied if the customer did not agree to the conditions of sale.
Much of the small print was unintelligible, for example: "Leisure Pro makes no warranty, either expressed or implied, of merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose, and none shall be implied by law. Final determination of suitability of any item sold for the use contemplated by purchaser is the sole responsibility of the purchase [sic], and seller shall have no responsibility in connection with such determination."
I'm also not sure how the warranty would operate when the goods supplied may be "gray" (see price promise below).
FAQ: Lots of questions answered but complicated by the unintelligible small print at the bottom of the page.
Price promise: LeisurePro seemed to pride itself on low prices, but there was no price promise in sight.
However, in the small print of one page I found the following rider that seems to support the claim about unauthorized goods being sold:
"LeisurePro buyers travel worldwide to acquire the finest products at the lowest prices possible. Since, on some of the items we do not buy directly from the manufacturer, we are not bound by official/unofficial manufacturer's suggested retail price and can pass on the tremendous savings to you, our valued customer."
Ordering: Try as hard as I could, I didn't manage to get to the checkout without first registering as a customer, even though the page indicated that I could. It took several attempts, as the site did not seem to be geared up for international telephone numbers. It used the padlock and an https address, but only for providing credit card information, not to cover personal information.
Summary: This site appeared to provide everything you could require, but once I dug deeper I found too many unanswered questions, ambiguous phrases and niggling concerns.
The reply to my e-mail enquiry confirmed the store as a dealer in gray goods:
"We aren't authorized dealers for the Dive Rite and some other manufactures. Due to the Internet/mail order sales at such low prices. However we do offer you the equivalent warranty with all their merchandise. If anything happens to the gear under their warranty period, you would just send it to us for their same warranty or yearly service. You can service it in the UK but parts might not be covered if the manufactures. offers it, only if you would send it to us."
Considering the detail contained in a warranty received with equipment bought from an authorized dealer,
this pretty much sums up how little protection you might have as a consumer.
Combine this with the confusing detail in the small print and it's all down to whether you are prepared to take a gamble.
(Scored:) - 2/10