Many would say controls over the computer retailing industry are somewhere between non-existent and inadequate, but a conviction was recorded last week against a Victorian dealer with a shoddy past who re-emerged at the helm of another company.
After serving a prison term for what the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) described as "serious fraud" in the retailing of computer parts, Werner Rickman was banned from managing a company until February 7, 2002.
The Court heard last week how Rickman had commenced operating as a director and manager of United Electrical Marketing despite being under a five-year ban from doing so as prescribed in Corporations Law over which ASIC regulates.
Pleading guilty in a Melbourne Magistrates Court, Rickman, of Archies Creek, was convicted and fined $750 as well as being asked to pay $450 in court costs after being found to have been managing the company.
The financial damage to Rickman may be small bananas, but ASIC said it is increasing its watch over the "business activities of banned directors to ensure they are not breaking the law".
In another incident, the NSW Department of Fair Trading (DFT) last week issued a public warning against a Sydney company dealing in second-hand computers. The new Fair Trading Minister, John Watkins, cited Starworks and its director Terri Milosevic as being under further investigation. Milosevic was also involved with Perry Tait's defunct and disgraced Business Boost operation, the DFT said.
Starworks is also the subject of a similar investigation in New Zealand (see ARN May 26, page 1) where it was also trying to sell used, ex-Government computers with the aid of daytime television advertising.
Complaints tally mounts
Over 60 complaints were received by the DFT against Starworks, the department said. A spokesperson said it is moving early so as to avoid a situation such as what happened with Business Boost, which was allowed to continue operations unabated despite attracting "more than 1000 complaints last year".
The DFT said Starworks had the usual accusations levelled against it, including long delays in the delivery of orders, big penalties for order cancellations and showing a distinct aversion to honouring guarantees and granting refunds.