Home Computer: 'Best Buy' system that failed to materialise

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The Independent Online
IN JANUARY this year Margaret Rivers of Manchester decided she needed a windows-capable PC-compatible computer to help with an Open University course on Living with Technology. She chose a model from Wearnes Direct - a company which had been selected as 'Best Buy' in What PC magazine - emboldened by the company's '30-day no-quibble guarantee'.

The order was accepted on 25 January and her cheque for pounds 1,064.20 cashed on 1 February. She was told there would be a five-week delay. No computer duly appeared. On 3 March, she rang to ask when she could expect it and was told 'within a week'. On 25 March, after another postponement, she wrote to Wearnes Direct by recorded delivery cancelling her order and requesting full and immediate repayment. Nearly three weeks later, after a threat of legal action, Wearnes Direct promised her the money within a fortnight.

Last week, still with no money and no explanation, she asked us for help. We rang Helge Schneeman, the general manager, who sorted the matter out in a day and accepted that it was the result of mistakes by his company. The Rivers have been sent a full refund and even some compensation - an integrated software package (although that would be of limited use, even if they had a computer to run it on).

Mail order need not be like that. It should not be like that. It was to improve the image of the industry that eight leading suppliers formed the Personal Computer Direct Marketers' Association last month.

Under the association's customer's charter, the member company agrees not to debit the full amount of the sale by credit card until at most three days before delivery, to offer money back if the customer is not satisfied and to abide by arbitration in an irreconcilable dispute.

Whoever you deal with, if you are buying mail order it is a good idea, like Mrs Rivers, to record all dealings with the company involved.

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