UP THE CHANNEL: You want ethics with that?

UP THE CHANNEL: You want ethics with that?

It is not hard to single out those IT businesses that deal ethically with clients. Conversely, or is that perversely, it is much harder to pick those who don't and you often don't find out until you have a problem.

Somebody recently asked me for help after buying components from a local computer reseller. He had told the salesperson he had a two-year-old Pentium 4 PC running Windows XP that had been supplied by the same store. He needed a larger hard disk, more memory and a faster video card.

For about $500 he was supplied with a SATA hard drive, 512MB of DDR memory and an 8X AGP - all of which were incompatible with his PC. Yes he was in the wrong for not knowing what was under the bonnet but then how many people do?

He repacked the items carefully, made sure there was no damage and took them back to be exchanged or refunded. He was flatly refused on both counts.

I contacted the store and asked to speak to the salesperson, carefully explained who I was and why I was calling. I asked one question - "Did you recommend the goods or did the customer specifically ask for SATA, DDR and 8X AGP?" He told me where to go and hung up.

The reader has since been to Consumer Affairs which, while sympathetic, suggested he contact the Small Claims tribunal. It could be months before this issue is settled one way or the other.

This is not an isolated case - it happens regularly to consumers and resellers (yes, that's you).

Ever noted the fine print on many distributors' invoices?

Take a closer look and see how many goods have a special/obsolete item (or similar) return policy.

Basically, if you order it then it is yours. How many times have resellers been stuck with special orders because the client changed their mind or the goods were not exactly what they needed?

Now turn to the back of the invoice and read the small print conditions - the upshot of which is that you are made to jump through a lot of hoops in order to deal with them. I particularly like the fact that they own the goods until you pay for them but they also refuse to take them back.

And getting a return authorisation requires a great deal of diplomacy and tact, especially if you want a refund. You seldom win.

This industry has lost its client focus - what would we want if we were the client? Well Consumer Affairs is pretty specific - a reseller has to refund, replace or repair even if the customer is in the wrong. Why can manufacturers and distributors get away with it - are resellers not customers too?

We need an industry panel of manufacturers, distributors, resellers and consumer advocates to put together a standard policy on returning goods that works properly.

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