The Office of Fair Trading has dismissed claims that home computer prices are too high, following a 10-month analysis of the UK computer market.
The OFT said the investigation shows that concerns among British consumers that they are paying more than their European counterparts are unfounded. It also concluded that no single manufacturer or retailer has 'market power' in the home PC market.
John Bridgeman, director general of Fair Trading, said: "Overall the market is dynamic and innovative, and continual improvements in the quality of the products are ensuring that prices are falling over the long term."
Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, welcomed the report and said the OFT's investigation was an important one to reassure consumers.
"If buyers shop around they can get deals that match the best prices in other countries, and they get better choice than computer buyers in France or Germany," he said.
However, the findings were dismissed by some market watchers as not truly reflecting the PC market.
The UK Consumers' Association dismissed the OFT findings that pricing differences were down to UK consumers wanting higher specified systems, but said prices are actually driven by the retailers themselves.
Phil Evans, senior policy researcher at the Consumers' Association, said: "The claims that the UK home PC market is not segmented undermines the OFT's own case."
The report said there are no price differences between different distribution channels, yet shoppers are encouraged to buy directly from manufacturers, he added.
Andy Brown, analyst at IDC, said: "The retail markup of PCs is still very high. If you are looking specifically at low-spec PCs perhaps it is competitive, but not when compared to the other large markets of France and Germany, which offer cheaper and a wider range of PCs.
John Clare, Dixons chief executive, said in a statement: "We welcome the OFT's announcement. This will provide welcome reassurance to consumers in the run-up to Christmas when many families will be buying PCs. With Internet-ready PCs now available at £399, consumers can be reassured they are getting excellent value."
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