Amazon Sales of Hikvision China Cameras

Author: Brian Karas, Published on Jan 12, 2017

Hikvision has become widely available in the US, including on popular retail outlets like Amazon, with over 2,600 results:

4MP Hikvision outdoor domes are $85, 4 channel PoE NVR's are $160, available direct to anyone with a credit card.

Most products are in stock and available for immediate delivery, but there is a catch, these products may not be the deal they appear to be. We bought a few of these cameras and investigated what was sent and how it differed from authorized products.

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Comments (40)

I find this to be very disturbing and alarming to say the east. Consumers do not fully understand nor do they care about implications this presents to the market. The average guy will only be motivated and influenced by the price factor, not concerned with limited support or capabilities.

This to me is partly Amazon's fault. Replica products, gray market, products without warranty are all over Amazon and Amazon doesn't do much about it. Yes you can challenge the validity of a product but it's very difficult. Ask many Amazon sellers that have had their products copied how hard it is to get amazon to remove the other products. Amazon only cares if the product is similar enough without any regard to service, warranties, or other aspect that provides the overall user experience of a product over time.

Amazon has said that it will be aggressively policing counterfeits on its site in 2017, even taking some of the worst offenders to court.

The problem is that it is extremely difficult to identify and remove counterfeits even when the manufacturer works closely with Amazon.

Amazon didn't care until they started getting bad press. And how far they'll actually go remains to be seen. Their attitude seems to have been, as long as the money rolls in and they have the best paid legal money can buy to shirk responsibility, they're not really motivated to care.

Thanks for the post! This stuff drives me crazy

WOW... you don't really think about the impact of fakes out in the marketplace until you see a video like this. Very much an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing.

Send that video to trump.

This was found in a Hikvision camera bought on Amazon. Still my favorite.

wow thats pretty bad, never saw one that actually had the chinese writing on the box and the camera alongside English. I do wish Hikvision would do something about this as we get tired of giving the daily talk of why customers should not buy off Amazon and why they should buy from us.

Their is an easy way for Hikvision to do something about this actually. Amazon has a process called "Brand Gating" which prohibits sellers from selling a certain brand on Amazon unless they go through a very difficult process proving that they have permission from the manufacturer to sell the brand on Amazon. I know this first hand as I tried to sell some Seagate Skyhawk drives and I was denied, even though I gave proof of invoices that I purchased them from an authorized Seagate distributor. I even heard of stories where people have letters direct from the manufacturer and still were denied the ability to sell a certain product. Its very hard to say the least. And all Hikvision has to do is contact Amazon to get this put in place for their brand.

I will say that one thing is alarming to me is I think that Hikvision actually sold some cameras to "Amazon the company". Case in point:

These cameras are being shipped and sold by Amazon. Now its possible that Amazon bought these from a 3rd party seller, but highly unlikely due to Amazon's beast buying power. I doubt any 3rd party seller would have the qty of products that Amazon would want to mess with. My guess is they bought these direct from Hikvision. Its possible Hik was trying to get rid of a bunch of them, but as far as I know, this camera is still available for sale under normal distribution. I know it is for the OEM side anyways.

Interesting, when I look at it closer it says
"backordered, In stock on January 24th"
Which means they are still regularly ordering them

The other way hikvision can fix this is to create new part numbers for the US versions sense they are supposedly different (different internal parts and firmware).

This would at least make it easier to know the difference

I believe there is a region code in the serial number already:
CH = China
TW = Taiwan
JP = Japan
EU = Europe
NA = USA
WR = International

If it's in the SKU then it's easier to spot the difference on Amazon. You don't know the SN that has the region code until you've already purchased and connected the camera.

The Hik items we purchased for testing, direct from China, had no letters in any of the serial numbers.

It was destined for the Internal Chinese market & we purchased it through a Chinese contact.

They will never stop doing this. It's the Chinese way. They learned this in Chinese college. American's made our bed (or allowed it to be made) and now we're lying in it. We should've never let these manufacturer's start up in our country, and when they did we ALL should've boycotted them. A trade agreement would've been much better for us.

The only thing we can do now is try to support each other, educate the market/consumers (impossible), boycott the biggest offenders, and let the manufacturer's know what we think. They won't care of course, they'll say they understand and are going to do something about it but please just pay more money now, worry about that later!

Don't worry though, I bet a lot of those products are legitimate, and the shell companies selling on Amazon are actually ran by Hikvision themselves.

Hikvision will never properly police the sales channels. They tell you they will but they have both branded and OEM teams actively competing against each other. Add to that the direct from China sales that no one has any control over, by design

Their goal is to sell as many products as possible, regardless of the means, regardless of ethics. Period.

Would professional installers use Amazon for such risky cameras, grey imports?

Hikvision on Amazon is doing around $1,000,000+ USD / month from Amazon.

Some models selling up to 2k units a month! this is for a average distributor a acceptable sell for one model!

Seems not bothered to register for Brand Gating with Amazon, perhaps the numbers of the smaller sellers are not worth the effort.

IPVM educational as ever. :-)

The real question for me is if the camera only costs $85 on Amazon, that would suggest the sellers are getting them for no more than $50 if not even less. So why does it cost 3 times as much for integrators to get them?

Can someone explain this?

Its worth mentioning that Hikvisions North American Support will not touch these cams. If you happen to brick the cam with a Firmware upgrade, or need any support whatsoever, Hik NA will deny you any support if the Serial is Chinese. I understand the flow of these cams into the US market is hard to control for any entity involved. But you would think with "Hikvision" printed on the side of the product, Hikvision the manufacturer would offer some kind of support. Even Axis NA will support any cam as long as its within the Warranty Period (from what I'm told).

We were burned years ago when we somehow wound up with Chinese serialized units that came in Brown boxes with small white Hik labels. When we recently went to update the firmware, everything turned Chinese, and we had to swap out 30 cams eating the cost. Absolutely no help from our local Hik RSM or Distributor as the initial purchase was years ago. Never experienced a reluctance to help with any other manufacturer, but never had a situation remotely similar.

Hikvision is ultimately to blame here. Every cam has a serial number which can be tracked back to US or Asian location. If Chinese cams are ending up in the US, come down hard on the originating supplier. The policy of not supporting their own products sold on Amazon because they're too lazy to police the sales channels hurts integrators, end users, and puts shame on the entire market. Its embarrasing and awkward when you have to explain to customer why your price is 3 times more for the same product they see on Amazon, because the manufacturers ignorance and business practices allow it. Trust in the brand is immediately lost by both customer and integrator. We have both a customer and friend that bought Hik online after seeing our price, only to brick the cams after firmware updates. They will never buy another Hik product again regardless of price, and neither will we.

The policy of not supporting their own products sold on Amazon because they're too lazy to police the sales channels hurts integrators...

Usually, IMHO, integrators prefer manufacturers NOT support their unauthorized product. Wouldn't it be worse for integrators if the firmware COULD be updated without issue?

Yes, very true and I agree. I suppose my opinion may be skewed because we weren't burnt in the past. It was especially frustrating for us that there was absolutely no exceptions or assistance given to us, even though its their product and their name on the side of the unit. By not supporting the Amazon, of Chinese serialized product may help stem the sale of these items, but its a shame that you don't find that out until you're in an already tough spot.

In another lifetime, I worked for a distributor and was constantly battling against counterfeit circuit breakers. Many of the electricians didn't care, buying lots from whatever shady website they could save a buck a piece. There is only so much the manufacturer and distributor can do to protect the channel. The person buying the cameras needs to bear responsibility of what they are ultimately installing.

Would you expect Dell to provide tech support on a PC if you decided to go in and load your own hacked bios?

Would you buy a new car from some stranger on the street if he was 40% cheaper than the dealer?

You make an excellent point, and completely agree. Had Hik Support made that point when I contacted them, or if the RSM mentioned that, I would've understood better. Your analogy definitely puts it in perspective.

Hik could absolutely track down where these units are coming from based on Serial. Hik Support NA was able to tell me exactly where the cams I had were originally sold. Hik has the money to dedicate a team of people, let alone an entire 4 story office building to combat this problem. They dont, or at least dont do it very well. Ignoring this issue, along with sneaking around the govt connection just seems shady and puts a real nasty taste in my mouth.

Thankfully I have the opportunity to choose which brand to lead with and still put food on my plate. If using Hik was the only way for me to close deals and survive, I might not care as much.

If Hikvision really cared, or didn't actually own these shell companies, they could tell US Customs to seize all shipments with the Hikvision trademark/brand unless it's officially sanctioned by them. It's not too hard. Sure the little onesies-twosies will get through, but any containers or larger air shipments won't.

Only Amazon know who's the seller, and where the FBA stock is coming from. Seems no way to know who's the people behind the seller on Amazon. I don't think Hikvision themselves are part of this. As they could easily sell themselves and make even more profit.

Unusual seems little others are available, perhaps because their brand is a bigger target.

I don't think Hikvision themselves are part of this. As they could easily sell themselves and make even more profit.

I don't know if Hikvision is or is not. If (hypothetically) they did, one reason to sacrifice that profit / add the later is to reduce pushback from dealers.

Imagine Hikvision said "hey good news, we are starting to sell direct on Amazon this week." They'd have a lot of angry dealers, many would protest and some would drop them. Same for any other video surveillance manufacturer, as this is not a Hikvision specific dynamic.

It is exactly to avoid complaints from their "Trusted Partners", they can tell all their large buyer's they're working on shutting down the problem. They'll close one shell company and open another. They'll act annoyed about this "channel chaos" and pretend they're on your side. All the while flooding the market with their brand to gain brand recognition so that repeat buyer's will buy direct from Hikvision. They're a retail brand just like Dahua.

This is out of a playbook, and we're not angry enough or wise enough to stop it.

They'll act annoyed about this "channel chaos" and pretend they're on your side

In fairness, it depends who it is at Dahua and Hikvision. The employees who work just on domestic branded sales (say RSM in the US, a BDM in the UK, etc.) are almost certainly genuinely annoyed and against unauthorized sales since they only get paid on authorized ones and suffer from the damage of unauthorized ones (support problems, headaches from authorized dealers complaining, etc.).

Of course, the problem is that upper management at these companies reap the benefit of selling to as many channels as possible.

Another thing to consider here is that a third party is minipulating the firmware to be english. You have no idea where that firmware came from and if anything else has been changed to compromise security of the camera.

Great point! In Cyber Security, if the camera is in an unknown state or the settings are not in a known good state, then you default the camera and flash the firmware.

Pretty silly that flashing the firmware bricks the camera. If it was that hard to get the camera in English mode, a simple firmware upgrade shouldn't undo this...

They should have a worldwide firmware that uses the serial number to localize the product.

The fact that so many grey-market suppliers know how to hack the cameras to make a few $ on Amazon is an issue. Does any other camera manufacturer have people routinely hacking their firmware??? All because they sell domestic product for $ less.....

From what I have found with simple search on google is:

The firmware difference are in fact, just one byte of two files inside the Linux build, with a checksum. This is just the region code value, as it seems the firmware files are Multilanguage or at least English / Chinese. I don't own any HIK IPC so unable to verify this.

This is why an upgrade would revert it back to Chinese. There is some initial software setting which says the origin of the product possibly the serial number stores in a unknown location.

Stopping low priced items is like sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

Stopping low priced items is like sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

Overall, for sure.

But every individual manufacturer can control their own channel / pricing if they choose to do so. The only question is whether they are willing to expend the money to enforce and suffer lost sales from that channel control.

John, Peter Thiel has a great explanation of competition and commoditization in the early chapters of 0 to 1.

I don't buy HIK cameras or their OEM counterparts. I choose not to support them, I think we should all be more proactive in this regard.

What is the weigh in from other regions of the world where cyber security may be a top shelf item that is not implemented to the point of awareness of the end user. Perhaps here in the US we are a step ahead in the evaluation of compliance issues cyber and beyond. However what about those deploying in 3rd world applications, the ability to plug into POE and have ready available streams might out weigh the concern of the local American IT nerd enforcing compliance dictated by his organization that subscribes to hierarchy performance deployments. I am be off base, but not that far by comparison. Not every Hik or chinavision deployment is confined to our appliance laws and regulations.

What appliance laws are there which say any device can't be subjected to a hack / attack?

As yet nobody will stop you using any device you care to plug onto any internet, with only the exception of say a 4G mobile network. Where the IMEI number of the phone would not or at least shouldn't work if not approved by the telecom company hosting the service. Certification for cell networks is a massive cost few would like to pay, and also is the timescale for these approvals.

Only thing I could say is if IPv6 address are encoded into devices so that this can act as a serial number / authentic device, be it approved or otherwise for internet traffic! ( just a thought! ). This could be a future way in which security can be part of all devices.

Grey imports don't help everyone. Hikvision can buy a few of these imported device, track the serial numbers to the Chinese supplier and cut them off in less than 10minutes work. Would they do it? should they do it? do they care?

Update: Hikvision UK sent a letter yesterday about unauthorized product sales:

Just to play devil's advocate here, from an end customer standpoint, a lot of points here aren't very strong reasons to buy authorized. Don't get me wrong, I still believe you should buy authorized products, I just don't think these reasons provide the strongest arguments.

"Are backed by local sales and engineering support" - The end customer doesn't always get this support, the integrator does but not the end customer.

"Are supported by local tech support..." - Hikvision NA doesn't support end customers. They explicitly say integrators should be providing the support to the end customer. So to the end customer, the manufacturer doesn't provide support either way.

"Offer products backed by manufacture's warranty" - true, but to replace a camera still requires it to be sent back which may take weeks to get back and they'll still have to pay labor to remove and replace the unit. If the camera from the gray market cost 70-50% less, a new camera can just be purchased and installed within days 1-2 times before this method costs more than authorized.

"Offer project registration and project discounts" - for Hikvision NA this only applies to projects higher than $15,000 which is typically going to be a 30-50 plus camera system. Many buying from Amazon aren't buying that many.

Our overall argument for Authorized is security and firmware upgrades to patch security issues and our personal service and support to our customers. We do mention local support but mention it as more of a chain of local support (in the end it's still up to us as the integrator).

I'd be curious to hear what other integrators say to end customers when they ask about amazon products.

If the camera from the gray market cost 70-50% less

Are you getting gray market models for 50-70% less than authorized ones for the exact same model? I have seen prices be a lot closer and that's not even factoring in Hikvision's generous dealer discount model and monthly price cuts / sales.

So if you can legitimately get Hikvision for 50% less grey market for the exact same model, I can see why to take the risk but I have not seen the saving be that great.

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