The UK tech industry needs its own watchdog to police the channel and clamp down on rogue dealers, says Synaxon.
The buying group has been hit hard by fraudulent traders in recent years and is now calling for a ‘tech police body’ or ombudsmen.
“We need a police force to manage the channel and keep it as strong as possible,” Synaxon UK MD Derek Jones told PCR.
“A technology ombudsmen would allow the end user to report a fault or unscrupulous dealer to the trade association. If they don’t get satisfaction from the trade association, then they’d get a point of redress higher up with a government body: the ombudsmen.
“There isn’t even a process at the moment. There’s always been an element of cowboys and sharks and dodgy dealers in the IT industry, and that can never change until we have a solid trade association.”
However, trade body CompTIA says the focus should be on educating the channel. The group currently offers free guides for IT firms and allows them to apply for a Government-endorsed Trustmark quality seal of approval.
"We’re working hard and are passionate about driving professionalism and quality into the industry, and raising standards all through our Trustmark programme,” said Vaughan Shayler, CompTIA’s director of UK channel strategy.
“Frankly, Fred’s PC shop up the road is never going to be regulated. The industry needs to self-regulate. We've got to make the industrychannel itself be more professional. We've got to educate buyers to buy from companies with lower risk that follow best practices.
"We aren’t really that appropriatethe best resource for consumers – their best recourse is to go to the supplier or Trading Standards if they have a problem. We would say to anyone who wants to buy an IT system, if you want to enhance your chance of getting good service, buy from someone who has a Trustmark."
VCinsight.com’s Keith Warburton, industry veteran and former president of the Technology Channels Association (TCA, which grew out of the Professional Computing Association and later transitioned into CompTIA), says that if a retailer has broken the law, a customer should contact their local Trading Standards department concerning the matter.
Distributor Entatech UK’s VP/director Jon Atherton told PCR: “All companies need to implement ‘due diligence’ on customers and suppliers and make decisions on the credibility of that company.
“Having a separate organisation is only worthwhile if it has considerable legal rights, which won’t happen. Code of conducts are great but if they are not legally binding for the industry, they are worthless.”
John Carter, MD of business telecoms specialists DMSL, says there’s “a definite passion from the trade” for a regulator, especially considering converging markets and the increase in popularity smartphones.
Synaxon’s Jones added: “A trade association should protect the trade from charlatans and scumbags. Saying that, the industry is a million times better than it was years ago. There’s no easy money anymore so a lot of the dodgy geezers have moved on. But Trading Standards and police currently take no notice whatsoever [of IT fraud].
“The problem is that it’s too expensive to become an IT ombudsmen – no one wants to do it.”
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