ACCC backs code of ethics

ACCC backs code of ethics

Tired of chaos in the computer industry, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has declared its readiness to endorse a code of conduct for dealers if suitable guidelines can be developed with input from relevant parties.

Taking up the challenge, the go-forward Computer Industry Association of South Australia (CIASA) has embarked on producing such a document and is determined to have it complete by August.

Lissa Haprov, president of the CIASA, is calling for support from Australia's largest industry players as well as the thousands of legitimate resellers in the Australian IT channel. She said support for the project has come personally from Allen Asher, deputy chairman of the ACCC.

"If we can get relevant input from those with a vested interest, the ACCC has expressed its interest in endorsing a code of conduct which could potentially be adopted by industry associations all over Australia," Haprov said.

"To produce something suitable we need and are inviting vendors, distributors, user groups and government agencies to become involved.

"The object is to produce a fair and clear set of guidelines and standards to which businesses in the industry can declare allegiance."

Peter Hackworth, small business officer for the ACCC's South Australian branch, said the initiative was a recommendation emerging from an April summit called to review minimal controls and consumer problems in the burgeoning computer industry.

"We have agreed to work with them," Hackworth said of plans to develop a code of conduct.

"We can do some targeted enforcement if one exists but the industry needs to take responsibility for developing ethics and law."

"The initial focus would be in South Australia but we would be hoping and expecting to see it adopted elsewhere. Its success depends on the commitment of all the relevant parties in the industry."

Haprov said key components of the code of conduct would include standardisation of warranties, protection for dealers and consumers, systems of arbitration and conciliation, and guidelines on minimum assembly quality standards.

Commitments to advertising ethics and sales tax (or GST) liabilities would also be laid in black and white.

"It must be publicly accountable, able to withstand the closest scrutiny and transparent to any industry bias," Haprov said. "There will be no grey areas but to be effective we do need input and support from the highest levels of the industry. It is in everybody's interest for it to be a success.

"If we can get a large number of industry bodies to stand behind a comprehensive and supportable code of conduct, adherence by members will go a long way towards elimin- ating consumer problems and grey areas."

Hackworth said the best-case scenario from such an endeavour would be for the development of a code that had the confidence of both consumers and the industry. Under such circumstances he said, "businesses will want to become members of bodies adopting it because of the competitive advantage it offered".

"The more businesses there are working towards the code, then the less drama there is for consumers and consumer bodies," Hackworth said. "We can and will help with logistics studies and technical advice on the document's construction.

"The CIASA has been told to let us know what sort of support it wants and we will do as much as possible to help it."

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