Reseller takes Toshiba to ACCC

Reseller takes Toshiba to ACCC

A Queensland-based reseller has lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against Toshiba over an alleged misleading product brochure. The industry watchdog in turn fired a warning - it's keeping a close eye on the information economy.

A proficient Toshiba notebook reseller Townsville Computer and Design Services (CADS) ordered a Satellite 1800 notebook from Ingram Micro based on a product specification brochure (in PDF format) from Toshiba's Web site. Based on the brochure, Townsville CADS believed the Satellite 1800-009S9 model contained an integrated 10/100 LAN network interface card.

However, when the product arrived via overnight air delivery it did not contain a built-in LAN card.

Townsville CADS director Jenny Healy, contacted Toshiba but was referred to a small-print "Order Numbers" section, located on the back page of the brochure which listed the purchased 009S9 model, another Satellite 1800 model and the features of each notebook. The 009S9 model did not list a LAN card on its inventory features.

"I was so angry," Healy told ARN. "At this point, I'm left with the proverbial egg on my face, and because my ethics are of a higher standard than Toshiba, I had to provide a PCMCIA network card to my client at my cost."

Although Townsville CADS predominantly works as a systems builder for a number of vertical industries in QLD the reseller took the order for the notebook as an urgent request from an existing customer. Healy claims the customer also made the same assumption and signed off on the sale, based on reading the spec sheet.

"This has never happened to me before," said Healy. "All Toshiba said to me was go back to Tech Pacific and Ingram Micro, but I should be able to rely on specs provided by the vendor. It's not [the distributor's] responsibility to provide specs on every product they cover."

"I want Toshiba to come to the party. If they got 10 calls a day they would do something about it, but when it's just a small reseller from the top of the country they can just fob me off," added Healy.

Toshiba officials were shocked to learn of the complaint, claiming the company will be attempting to rectify the out-of-pocket expense incurred by Townsville CADS. While the manufacturer stands behind its advertising material - Annette Horst, a spokesperson for Toshiba, said it could see where the misunderstanding took place.

"Toshiba regrets any confusion on this matter. In fact, we've already spoken with Jenny Healy of Townsville CADS and will refund her out of pocket expenses," said Mark Whittard, Toshiba's national marketing manager.

"This is the first time this has ever happened to us, and because we take our customers' comments so seriously, we are now reviewing this and other product brochures. In future, we will seek to make everything much clearer and in this case specify that the network card is only in one of the two Satellite 1800 models detailed in the brochure."

Fine print advertising has been a major bugbear for the ACCC in recent months. Furthermore Michael Cosgrave, ACCC telecommunications general manager, claims the organisation is paying specific attention to the IT industry due to its high-growth, high profile nature.

"The explosion of the information economy and the technology which runs it are matters the ACCC is giving high priority," Cosgrave told ARN.

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