Regional computer dealers who say travelling computer markets eat their business are looking with interest at the actions of a local council in Victoria, which has been cracking down on fairs trading in the area.
The City of Greater Bendigo Council, which took action last year to curtail computer markets, has already stamped out one market and is poised to crack down on the one remaining market active in the area, run by Computer Events.
The general manager of Melbourne-based Computer Events, Jeff Leach, said the company had council approval to run a market every two months out of the local YMCA premises.
But the council was last week understood to be preparing a letter informing Computer Events that it can’t hold another market in Bendigo before the end of the year.
Bendigo’s crackdown on the fairs, which last year were occurring as often as twice a month, is based on the council’s interpretation of the Victorian government Planning Scheme’s Planning Environment Act.
Under the council’s interpretation, occasional use of premises such as community halls for computer markets is reasonable, but fairs happening as frequently as once a month were effectively trading as retail outlets, without the necessary planning permits.
Under the Planning Scheme, the council can issue fines of up to $120,000 and take enforcement action in the Victorian Civil and Administrative tribunal.
Bendigo-based computer dealer, Paul Merrick, of Recon Technologies, said he first complained to local government about the markets about a year ago.
“They’ve killed the market,” he said. “They were ruining our business and draining the local economy. They’re not providing jobs for Bendigo kids and the money is going straight to Melbourne.
“I was employing four people three years ago. I’m paying rent and rates. My position was that the council was responsible. I flooded them with emails to all the local politicians and the mayor. It went on for about two months.”
Apart from the pricing competition the computer markets represented, Merrick said customers from the markets would come to his store for help with faulty stock, and illegal imports with no local warranty support. The markets had also sold pirated music and games, he claimed.
With council action in Bendigo reducing computer markets from fortnightly to a maximum of six a year, computer dealers in other regional areas of Victoria and NSW are considering pressing for similar action from their local government.
Chris Bryant, of Taree-based Noeledge Systems, said he would consider action, but would face the challenge of convincing other local computer shops to join forces to lobby local government.
Markets ran almost every month at Taree High School, Bryant said.
“What annoys me the most is that the councils let them do it. I pay my rates and fees to council,” he said.