The NSW State Government's inquiry into the escalating number of complaints from consumers about dodgy PC suppliers (see ARN, June 10, page 1) has received widespread channel support.
Figures quoted by a NSW Department of Fair Trading (DFT) spokesperson reveal it has received an alarming 1833 complaints against PC dealers over the last 12 months - 911 of those in the first five months of this year.
Earlier this month, the NSW Attorney General and Fair Trading Minister, Jeff Shaw, asked the Fair Trading Advisory Council (FTAC) to investigate the causes of these complaints and make recommendations to remedy the situation.
The most common complaints included: demands for large up-front deposits, long delivery delays and even non-delivery of products, and failure to provide service and bankruptcies which have left customers out of pocket.
Distributors, assemblers and retailers contacted last week by ARN unanimously welcomed the announcement.
Ray Shaw, managing director of assembler Intermedia Computers and the owner of retailer Techmart, has been closely involved with the establishment of a similar investigation in Queensland. This evolved from an investigation by Brisbane paper The Sunday Mail that exposed over 40 companies engaged in CPU remarking and other computer-related scams in Queensland.
"To have NSW doing the same thing is great news for the industry," said Shaw. "It's currently too easy for a dealer to sell a product they don't have and to use the consumer's money to buy the product.
"Anything governments can do to clean up the industry is good. In conjunction with recent changes to sales tax laws, this could make a difference in giving the legitimate businesses an even playing field," he said.
Krishan Chand, operations manager with Sydney-based system assembler Beyond Com-puting, agreed that illegal practices are rampant in some sections of the industry.
"Consumers and legitimate traders aren't getting a fair go," he said.
While Braham Shnider, managing director at Melbourne-based ITG Computers, fully supported the idea of an inquiry, he indicated it is about five years too late. He added that regardless of what regulations are implemented, there is always someone looking for loopholes. "They will wreck it for everyone else," he added.
Rob Kuypers, managing director of Ag-Tech Leading Edge in Griffith, NSW, said regional suppliers face the same problems as their city brethren when it comes to unfair competition. He said he may not have a suspect shop around the corner, but print media advertising leaves his potential market well aware of the "cheaper offers in town", sometimes at "prices lower than we can buy them".
"New technology means new business is being generated all the time. It is never too late to do something about the unscrupulous traders and this inquiry will hopefully isolate the cause of problems other than tax avoidance. I would not be against tighter regulations," he said.