It would seem that if enough complaints are logged against a computer reseller, the principals will eventually feel the wrath of the legal system. For the directors of Sydney-based Empire Systems, their day finally came in the Federal Court last week.
Between 1995 and 1998, the NSW Department of Fair Trading had received 430 complaints about the company.
Following an application by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Justice Marcus Einfeld banned husband and wife directors Misagh Roussi and Rohyeh Rohani from managing any corporation for 10 years.
In a scathing reference to the pair, Justice Einfeld said: "I would have contemplated even longer disqualifications as I do not believe that these respondents are ever likely to act honestly as company directors or to comply with their legal obligations as company directors at any time."
ASIC told the court that between 1988 and 1996 Roussi and Rohani were directors, secretaries or relevant persons of 18 companies involved in the retail of computers and software. One of those companies, Empire Systems, went into liquidation with an expected deficiency of more than $3.5 million.
Lissa Haprov, president of the Computer Industry Association of South Australia (CIASA), said that it was encouraging to see ASIC successfully take action against the directors of companies like Empire. However, she expressed a concern that the exemplary skills they obviously have for operating a business in such a way could be passed on to associates. CIASA, which is the only such incorporated industry body to address the problem of disreputable computer resellers, held a conference in Adelaide last week. Haprov urged authorities to be vigilant in monitoring these people.
"Once you sweep the street, you've still got to look at what's in the gutter," she said. One Sydney computer retailer summed up the feelings of many in the industry: "It just amazes me that these people continue to be supported by suppliers, even after several reincarnations. There never seems to be a shortage of customers who will blindly buy on price alone," he said.