Bulgaria is country where the Copyright is respected… not! or how Samsung bully their customers with the help of Bulgarian customs

samsung memory

Many people looking from aside think that running business it trivial. They probably think – what so difficult once you have the money you buy components for X manufacture something and sell it for Y and make profit (Y-X), so simple anyone with money can do it! The reality is different, every day you have to fight and solve small and big challenges.

For 25+ years I had so many issues I could write a book, some are funny, some are scary, many may seems even unreal and impossible. Specially at the beginning when the communist system collapsed and Bulgaria took the path to the democracy it was challenging to run business and take all risks, many times we were on the edge to go broke (our first big customer send us $10 000 electronic components for his order which were stolen at Sofia airport – we had no money to cover these components cost except to sell my parents home 🙂 ) but I may write these stories one day I’m telling you it will be big book 🙂

For these 25+ years I though almost nothing can surprise me – but Bulgarian Customs and Samsung did it last week!

We use lot of electronic components from different vendors. Integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, we have over 6000 different types of components we use for our boards in stock. For OLinuXino we use DDR3 memories from Samsung, Hynix, Micron etc.

We never ever had problem to import these components, everything was working flawless… until now.

We source the memories from many different suppliers. We made order and the memories were shipped and February 11 we got message from the carrier that the parcel is in Sofia and we have to arrange the customs clearance.
We paid all taxes and duties in advance and start waiting the ICs to be released and delivered then we got this odd message from the customs broker:

The customs require from you document, which authorize you to import goods with Samsung brand. Please provide such document to release your goods.
Also these goods need to be check if they are original and produced by Samsung or they if found fake would be destroyed for our account?!?

This is the first time we ever heard that we need such document, we import integrated circuits form many different brands and I’m pretty sure there is no permission necessary to import ICs.

I check again EU TARIC web site and for the Tariff code 85423290 which classifies the ICs there is no requirement to have any such permission document!

I asked the customs to issue me in written what law requires such permission, so I can have things in written and can contact lawer to consult me, but without any reply, they do not issue such written document but neither release our goods.

The carrier told me that Samsung as trademark holder found some way officially to bribe the Bulgarian customs and now when the customs officer see carton with Samsung on it stops the parcel and require such “permission” document.

As I wanted to handle this ASAP (every day we lose means we can’t produce our boards without these memory chips) I contacted Samsung Bulgaria technical support as trademark holder and explained them the situation. The people from the call center were very kind … and ignorant – they were trained to help people who can’t use their phones and TVs, but quickly gave me phone to the B2B manager of Samsung Bulgaria who could eventually help me. I called him several times, but the phone was not answering after few hours trying the phone was pickup by his assistant who told me that this mister is on trip but after she hear what the problem is told me that even if he was here he couldn’t help me, but will forward my message to the one who deal with trademark and customs.

To be honest people at Samsung were nice and really wanted to help, but just didn’t know how 🙂 One hour later I got call back by the manager who inspects the goods at custom to see if they are original and if they come from authorized distributor or not. I explained him the situation and as I guess he was doing these checks only on white and home appliances, not for components. He said such document “permission” could be issued by Samsung legal department which is in … Romania 🙂 Several days passed meantime without any sign that the problem will be solved soon.

We had no other option but to wait and finally yesterday we got call from the carrier that customs officer and Samsung representative want to open the parcels and to check the content. I told them that these are moisture sensitive devices and gave them instructions how to open and how to handle. Interesting fact is that they wanted to have my permission and instructions in written (aha!). One of the problems is that if the memories are on trays and these trays are not closed tight after the “inspection” they may slip during the transport and the balls of the memory chips to get smashed which make them useless for production.
The check obviously went good as today we receive the parcels.

Here is the carton with the samsung on outside which alerted the watchful customs officers:



here is how the one parcel with ICs looked after the “inspection”:


Our parcels were held 8 days on the customs, without anyone to give us written official statement why it’s held and based on which law they require these documents, so we could later defend our interest for lost profits damage in court. The parcels value with the taxes paid was exceeding  $60K and inside there were also Flash memories from Hynix and industrial DDR3 memories from Micron, the Samsung memories were just one position out of three.

Integrated circuits are raw components used in production.

It’s non sense Samsung to sell these and later to not allow you to import them and use them.

The Bulgarian customs have no capacity and competence to see if one chip is original or not by just looking at it and it’s packing, without special technical knowledge and trained personal and equipment, then why is this whole procedure necessary?

We lost 8 days for some non sense procedure. What we can do from now on?

At least we can try to avoid Samsung integrated circuits if possible and to use Micron and Hynix instead, the prices are same on the stock exchange, just other companies do not bully their customers.

I start to think was it good idea to bet on Samsung SMT placement machines too? What will happen if the machines arrive and Bulgarian customs arrest them to check if they are not fake or original Samsung machines – this is totally crazy as they cost a lot of $$$ to take such risk. Or what happens if your machine breaks and stop your production and you need spare parts which are held on the customs to check if they are “original” and you can’t use your assembly machines for weeks waiting someone from Samsung to go to the customs and bless the parts release from the customs?  After this accident now I look at anything with brand Samsung as trouble which we have to stay away from.

It wouldn’t be so ridiculous if in Bulgaria one was really carrying about copyright, but everybody knows that here copyright still means nothing, people download movies from local Bulgarian torrent servers which every kid knows and no one can stop these torrent servers as they obviously profit enough from advertisement to pay to whom it needs for protection. Internet providers do not cut the access to these servers as otherwise they would have no customers – the competition among internet providers here is huge and no one will take the risk to stop the access to these servers. These servers do IP filtering so no one outside Bulgaria can access them, but if you have local IP you can download any movie or software without single issue and at top download speed.


TL-DR; Samsung pays to Bulgarian customs to stop goods with their brand and then you are at their mercy. We will try to avoid importing/using Samsung products in future.

25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. progmetalbg
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 13:27:18


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Feb 19, 2016 @ 13:41:18

      Indeed the same non sense – I do wonder how the Bulgarian customs will decide if one IC is original or fake? Do they have engineers with x-ray machines which to scan the IC die?


      • zoobab
        Feb 19, 2016 @ 15:59:48

        Even to see the difference between a fake FTDI and a real FTDI chip, you have to be an expert 🙂

      • OLIMEX Ltd
        Feb 19, 2016 @ 16:03:27

        just to be expert will not help if you do not have the necessary equipment, even FTDI had to run test on the ICs to find the difference, based on the how ICs look no one can be certain what is inside them.

      • Axel F
        Feb 22, 2016 @ 20:06:54

        Btw that’s why we like Linux: it is not a big deal if it is a fake FTDI or not. Though fake FTDIs are low-quality things, which tend to expose more glitches, but sabotaging it on driver level like FTDI does is something like a racket. Good thing is that in Linux these are kernel devs who make decisions, so nobody can push destructive changes. There was prank-style patch for 1st april where kernel people coded FTDI-style “feature” to distinguish real and fake FTDI, but of course it never made into mainline, only serving as live showcase on how opensource and proprietary software differs. In opensource software nobody can afford hard vendorlocks. That’s what makes it shine – nobody dares to lock out opensource users, that’s the whole point of opensource.

  2. Leon Anavi
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 14:47:14

    Wow… what a mess 😦


  3. BK
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 16:07:03

    The root of this bullshit is ACTA, to which the EU (and hence Bulgaria) is a signatory.


    Basically the idea of ACTA is that “counterfeit goods” must be prevented from being imported and sold. This makes some sense, as it protects the trade marks of companies which fought long and hard to earn a reputation. Selling adibass shoes with deceivingly similar branding to Adidas is no longer legal.

    Where it goes wrong is that the brand owners have been given the authority over what is and what isn’t counterfeit goods and control over the distribution chain of their products. They want to exert control over distribution in order to set different pricing and terms in different countries.

    For example Samsung may want to sell a TV set for $1200 in Bulgaria and for $800 in a highly competitive and developed market like the US.

    This is not a problem specific to Bulgaria. It happens to various degrees elsewhere too.

    Gray market vs white market goods:
    Some brand owners insist that goods sold through channels unapproved by them are not genuine and are in violation of their trademark. This is utter BS. Gray market (free market distribution) is perfectly legal. The brand owner has no special right to decide how genuine products marked with the brand are imported or sold.

    I don’t have a good solution for this problem, but I know that letting the local representatives of a global brand decide what’s allowed and what it not allowed in is not the right thing to do.



  4. Todor Manev
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 16:46:50

    That is Bulgaria…. I do not know how we can change it, but at least we can try….. I also do not know why customs are not fully automated…..


  5. hemlis
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 17:14:38

    Samsung is a bunch of cunts


  6. R. E. Hunter
    Feb 19, 2016 @ 20:08:51

    The solution is simple: if Samsung doesn’t want you to buy their products, don’t buy them.


  7. Dennis Restle
    Feb 20, 2016 @ 01:34:06

    Well, such crazy story is a warning for future.
    I’m not from or in bulgaria, but if they start things like that in bulgaria i expect that Samsung will continue to do things like that in the rest of europe, too.
    I don’t understand why, but to me it seems like some big companies like to annoy their customers. There are better ways for fighting counterfeit stuff.
    They start from prohibiting legal trading to restricting access to devices and go on with stories like yours.
    For me this is a sign to avoid Samsung ICs where ever possibile.
    i just ask myself when bigger machines get a GPS device and after each location change you need to reactivate a machine or stuff like that.


  8. ivanthechemist
    Feb 20, 2016 @ 05:09:11

    This is a sad experience.
    Next time just get a lawyer, go in person (if possible) and release the package. It would COST something, but it won’t cost 8 days.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Feb 20, 2016 @ 10:56:59

      No one legit business wants to use counterfeit goods, especially ICs for production. This regulation is made for good, but as every thing in Bulgaria all good ideas then suffer from bad implementation.
      In this case Samsung wants to protect their brand which is good, as this way they will control the quality of the phones, TVs etc on the Bulgarian market and will stop counterfeit products with their brand, BUT this should not make burden and loss to the business who use their products!
      If Samsung wants to control the IC import – then they MUST provide transparent, fast and effective check – so the parcels are check and released same day, without delay, or to pay penalty for holding someone else’s goods arrested with no reason for days! Or if they don’t have trained personal for checking on some goods to make list of exceptions for the customs, so the customs do not stop such goods which they have no competence to check.
      Samsung is mega corporation – here in Bulgaria they deal with metals, home appliances, construction machines, etc etc thousands of different type of products.
      I doubt they can keep trained personal at Bulgarian customs for all these variety of goods, then why customs should stop these in non sense procedures if they can’t make real check and everything is made pro-forma just to show – look we do control?
      What exactly they did check to these memory ICs? Opened the hermetic seal so now we have to bake them to remove the moisture? How one can check if one IC is original or fake by the outside look? This is what really piss me off.


  9. ignat99
    Feb 20, 2016 @ 19:12:21

    I was have the same story: I am going to place a large order from a one brand.
    But we get problems with the some control from brand. I’m still in shock.

    We decided to do all without this brand, by ourself. The brand name of this story is Olimex.


  10. pmartinsons
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 10:52:03

    ignat99 is a Samsung troll pretending to be a Bulgarian. Just look at his korean accent 🙂


    • Axel F
      Feb 22, 2016 @ 20:00:53

      I think Ignat99 is from Russia or other parts of exUSSR. Russian customs are far worse entity, and what is out of order for Bulgaria is a norm for Russian customs. Yes, hell could be considered “norm” in some places.


  11. Axel F
    Feb 22, 2016 @ 19:47:49

    You’re lucky these are Bulgarian customs. There’re far worse places on the Earth. E.g. if you want to import or export something in Russia, customs would get on the way. No matter what, you stand no chance unless you’re ok with bribing. You shall not pass, unless you pay bribes. I’m not really sure why customs allowed to sabotage business activity in Russia this way, but it doubles or maybe triples all components costs, and kills export, because everyone have to pay bribes and face complicated bureaucracy. So, dear Bulgaria, take care to stay away from Russia influence, it could be orders of mangitude worse compared to this story.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Feb 23, 2016 @ 00:34:30

      25 years ago Bulgarian customs were exacly like the Russian customs today, so this is deja vu for me
      Recent customer from Ukraine asked us to sign 9 pages of contracts and specifications to wire 1000 euro, this beurocracy makes the Ukrainian companies totally non-competetive to world market – they must put x10 more efforts to do same what other do in the normal countries.
      To do business in Bulgaria is much easier after we join EU in 2007, but still not so easy like they do it in US, when I talked to Mouser manager how they deal with customs I was amazed how everything there is made to HELP the business, no wonder US companies dominate, they couldn’t achieve such results if they were not located there


  12. Michael Koch
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 19:40:56

    Have you try to motivate Samsung to sent an confirmation fax in parallel to your parts to the bulgarian Customs officer? Sure it must well signed, stamped an delivered from a validated Samsung fax number. Would this not an acceptable solution? Maybe you try such an agreement with Samsung before you order.


  13. David
    Mar 04, 2016 @ 04:19:05

    Some day, in the far distant future, China may grow-up and stop ripping off the rest of the World with fake goods. Then we can all play together nicely.

    If you think fake memory chips are a pain in the neck. Just think about the problems fake cancer drugs from China cause!

    What is happening with your shipment of Samsung chips is good thing – but it is being handled badly. You can’t really blame the government – governments in-general do everything badly.

    The problem is Samsung and/or Samsung’s in-country Distributor. If Samsung is having problems with fake goods penetrating their markets, they have no choice but to work within the law and make sure government agencies are doing their job smoothly and efficiently protect their shipments. Yes, this will cost Samsung money, which will ultimately cost Samsung’s customers money. But there is no choice, and Samsung’s competitors are surely facing the same problem too.


  14. rodrigo
    Mar 07, 2016 @ 15:40:24

    I had such problems in the past with stupid chicanery. The solution usually is to complain to the mother house in the USA, they do take matters seriously.


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