One week will expire before the deadline for a consultation document that will affect everyone in the channel who sells services, installs kit or shifts boxes.
The Department of Trade and Industry has given businesses until 15 November to submit their comments on a EU Directive that will effectively extend warranties on goods and services for up to two years.
On the face of it, that looks terrible for dealers but good for consumers. But Keith Warburton, executive director of the Personal Computer Association and his members, believe that in the long run it will make everything cost a lot more as businesses have to build the costs into their prices.
The details of the Directive are as follows. If you sell something and faults develop within two years of the sale, you are liable. For the first year, a buyer can ask for a full refund, repair, replacement or a discount. That applies to second hand goods as well. But the biggest change affects on whose shoulders the burden of proof falls.
Under present UK law, it is up to the buyer to prove that the goods are defective. But if and when the EU Directive becomes law, that will switch and sellers will have to prove they are not defective.
That may be clear-cut enough when you are talking about selling simple pieces of kit, like wooden stakes. But imagine the nightmare when one of your customers can demand a refund on, say, a Pentium machine fitted with all the bells, whistles and other bits and bobs, any of which could go belly-up during those two years. And as the legislation will apply to software too, as well as installing cables and maintaining the equipment, the cost to a small dealer will be completely prohibitive.
Member countries of the European Union have been asked to canvass trade associations and other interested bodies. In the UK, the DTI is garnering opinions. But if the worst predictions come through and the commissioners in Brussells vote to enshrine them in European law, it is unlikely that the UK will be able to postpone the day.
Warburton says that after its efforts over the CE debacle last year, the DTI is taking it seriously. Alan Gower of Colossus Computers has been nominated to express the views of PCA members not only to the DTI but also to a select committee of the House of Lords. If you think it might affect your business, you can contact the DTI for a copy of the document.
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