As part of an ongoing investigation lasting more than a year, the Department of Fair Trading (DFT) has publicly warned consumers about dealing with computer reseller, Computer Distributors Australia Pty Ltd.
Last week, in a public statement entitled 'Don’t deal with discount computer company warns minister', the Minister for Fair Trading, Reba Meagher, listed a litany of offences against consumers by the French’s Forest-based company.
Among more than 60 complaints received by the office related to defective or inferior goods, not supplying all items as contracted, failing to provide refunds when requested, and promised technical support not being provided.
Spokesperson for the minister, Shoshana Lenthen, cited two cases that were due to be presented to parliament.
In one, a North Coast family ordered a computer which was subsequently cancelled before it left the company. The company then claimed it was sent to the consumer and then returned, which according to the consumer, wasn’t the case. The company then claimed more than $200 for a cancellation fee as well as $90 dollars in freight which the family were not informed of.
In the second case, a country family ordered a computer from Computer Distributors Australia (CDA) based on an advertisement. The computer allegedly did not work and the family was asked to pay for the return freight at their own cost. It had still not received a full refund.
Of particular note surrounding the DFT investigation, was the minister’s issuing of the warning under section 86A of the Fair Trading Act, which gives the minister the authority to issue a public statement giving warnings about unfair business practices so further damage to consumers is minimised while Fair Trading continues its investigations.
Lenthen said no more than six such public warnings under Section 86A had been issued since Meagher entered office in April 2003. “It’s a very extreme case,” Lenthen said, “it’s not a step that the minister takes lightly - naming a company so publicly. To name a company like that can have potential impacts on the company.”
Justifying the minister’s actions, Ms Lenthen said that “we always act on the advice of [the Department of] Fair Trading and we’ve done it in the interest of consumer".
A 1300 telephone number set up by CDA connects the caller to a telephone answering service rather than directly to a customer service area, following Fair Trading’s involvement with the company.
Computer Distributors Australia Pty Ltd had not returned ARN’s calls prior to going to press.
For more on this story, see next week’s issue of ARN.