A recent report from Which? that claimed PC stores are overcharging customers has been met with criticism from independent retailers.
The consumer rights publication installed a software fault onto 24 laptops preventing them from booting up, before taking them into stores including Currys&PC World, Carphone Warehouse and repairers from the Brigantia network of indies, and asking them to repair them.
The investigation revealed ‘poor quality repairs, aptitude and pricing from major High Street retailers’, and said consumers were paying over the odds for ‘simple repairs’.
But computer repair store owners have told PCR that Which?’s test was unprofessional and unfair.
Frank Seldevig, owner of YourITstudio, said: “The whole test was flawed. From a professional point of view, the test was wrong. It applies to amateurs not to professionals, designed by people with no experience in the industry.
“They went in and deleted a file and that file could be restored by Windows Repair – a simple fix. But no professional in this industry would ever use Windows Repair because it never works for anything. We can’t just replace a file."
Iain Shaw, divisional director at Brigantia, said that this type of testing was ‘grossly unfair’. He added: “They went into the registry and erased a file, which just doesn’t happen in reality. It was designed to trick.
“If you look at the way they produced the results, they rated the independents 1.5 out of five, and they should’ve done that as a percentage, because all the others (national retailers) are rated out of six.”
"All the independents tested provided a fix. But it wasn’t the fix that they were looking for. The customers, if they had been real customers, would have walked out of those premises with their laptops fixed, quite happy with the fact that their machine was working."
Other retailers believed that the test was designed to cause PC stores to fail to repair the fault. Anthony Lay, owner of AML Midlands, explained: “I personally think Which? were naughty. When a client brings you a device to be repaired, they expect a good service for a fair price, thus in turn, we as the engineers expect the device to be of ‘good order’ and not be sabotaged.”
However, in contrast other indies said that this type of test may benefit the industry, highlighting the kind of behaviour some PC stores are carrying out.
For example, Craig Hume, director at Utopia Computers, told PCR: “The recent Which? article unfortunately goes to show that unscrupulous behaviour is going on in our industry and in some cases, the technical staff working on repairs, are simply unqualified.”
Similarly, Anthony Lay believes the IT industry needs to be regulated more often, as although some IT professionals may be qualified, it that does not necessarily mean they can fix the problem the first time round.
“We do need to regulate the IT industry somehow, rather than just passing an exam and saying I am an MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) for example. In the real world, things are different," he commented.
“We find sometimes that it takes us longer to process the issue, and find the root of the problem is more costly than the machine we are working on and find it difficult to charge per hour."
After approaching Which? about the difference in opinion, a spokesperson told PCR: "We stand by our investigation and note that some retailers actually managed to repair the laptop while charging a reasonable fee. Consumers should expect the same standard of service wherever they take their laptop to be repaired."
Which? also explained that if a PC store could not provide a repair, they checked to see if they could fix the laptop themselves without the addition of unnecessary parts.
It seems that although the Which? article has raised some hairs within the IT industry, it has prompted PC retailers to contemplate on improving regulatory measures so that in the future they may be able to provide a fix no matter what the issue is.
Iain Shaw continued: “There’s a little bit of a wake up call there, to make sure that everybody does check thoroughly. Don’t always assume that it’s the first thing, there could be another reason for something.
"I’m actually quite proud of the fact that we are recognised as a national brand. We are in this group of indies that are recognised this way, we are seen as being out there and you know they’ve taken our people as an example."