Suspect retailers should be required to "put up or shut up" on the PC offers they advertise, according to a Fair Trading Advisory Council (FTAC) report tabled last week by NSW Fair Trading Minister Jeff Shaw.
Under the report's recommendations, failure to do so will constitute an offence.
A rash of dirty tactics and deception has been adopted by some dealers and identified by the FTAC inquiry. The "too good to be true" deal, which lures unsuspecting customers to a trader's premises, and sales of systems which are not configured as advertised have been at the root of many of complaints.
Shaw said that a final package of Fair Trading actions would be ready early next year.
"The report is solid and includes good sensible ideas which we think will go a long way towards cleaning up an industry that has caused a lot of heartache to a lot of individuals," Shaw said.
"There is not going to be any retreat on any of these issues. Some we can implement ourselves but others need action from within the industry."
The FTAC will be distributing a handbook that will be updated with information aimed at assisting those dealers who want to make sure they are toeing the line.
Traders who have in the past been able to skirt around attention from the disparate fed-eral and state government enforcement agencies due to a lack of information exchange should be reeled in as a result.
"I am sure the industry wants to see the suspect dealers weeded out as well," Shaw said. "The great majority of computer retailers are very reputable and they do not want these people giving the industry a bad name."
The Inquiry into the Retail Supply of Personal Computers, Peripheral Devices and Software advocates attention in four key areas. It recommends legislative changes at both federal and state levels as well as encouraging the formulation of an industry code of conduct, consumer and dealer education strategies, and greater cooperation between enforcement agencies.
Additionally, enforcement officers will receive extended authority to peruse accounts and other records while so-called "phoenix" companies will be required to "show cause why they should be allowed to continue trading", according to Shaw.
To ensure the honest traders can contribute to improving the industry, the report recommends that "a national working party be established to consider developing a code of conduct for the industry". It suggests such a guideline should cover practices such as "misleading advertising, Y2K product compliance and methods of payment".
The report clearly identifies an untenable situation in existence where unprincipled dealers are taking advantage of eager yet ignorant consumers.
It has proposed that education campaigns covering the legal ramifications of purchasing a PC should be developed in schools, libraries, community centres, Fair Trading Centres, the Internet and in the media.