'Shop around for PCs', says OFT

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The Independent Online

THE OFFICE of Fair Trading yesterday ruled that the market for home personal computers is competitive, though it advised consumers to shop around.

THE OFFICE of Fair Trading yesterday ruled that the market for home personal computers is competitive, though it advised consumers to shop around.

"In our experience, if you do shop around you will find a considerable range of prices and a variety of deals that you can get," said a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry.

The spokesman acknowledged that many consumers are unfamiliar with the various PC sales channels, which in addition to high-street retail chains and independent shops, also extend to mail order and Internet-based sellers.

The ruling was welcomed by Dixons Group, which along with subsidiaries PC World, The Link and Currys, commands about 20 per cent of the British home PC sales market.

Commenting on the state of competition in the sector, a DTI spokesman said: "The key thing is that nobody has got 25 per cent [of the market].

"We welcome the OFT's announcement that the UK home PC market is competitive," said John Clare, Dixons Group's chief executive.

"With Internet-ready PCs now available at £399 consumers can be assured that they're getting excellent value."

The probe was launched last year when Peter Mandelson, the then Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry, wrote to John Bridgeman, director general of the OFT, following complaints about the price of PCs.

Mr Mandelson's intervention followed remarks, later withdrawn, by the Intel chief executive, Craig Barrett, that home-PC sales in the United Kingdom were lagging behind other markets due to high prices.

The OFT also found that differences in price between Britain, and France and Germany, could be partially explained by the preference of UK consumers for more powerful and more highly specified systems.

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