PC prices will soar and manufacturers will desert UK shores if a new EU proposal goes ahead, the UK Personal Computer Association (PCA) warned last week.
The stark prediction was delivered in response to a draft proposal for the European Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees (COM95 520 final 96/0161). Under the terms of the proposal, consumers would find it easier to return goods and demand a full refund within a year if the goods bought are found faulty than under present UK law.
"The draft proposals are a sledgehammer to crack a nut," remarked Keith Warburton, executive director of the PCA, which represents computer and component suppliers, distributors and resellers.
Although the proposed legislation is meant to benefit consumers, Warburton argues that it will not work in the computer market because "the design of the PC allows for endless user upgrade and modification". The PCA claims that under the directive, suppliers could be held liable for problems caused by users upgrading or fiddling with their machines. If, for example, a user installed software that changed the configuration and caused a crash, they could take it back to the seller complaining it was now not fit for the purpose sold.
The situation would force manufacturers to raise product prices by up to 50% to cover the costs of dealing with a massive increase in the number of returns and support calls, the PCA claims.
An alternative would be to develop a "closed box" PC which consumers could not upgrade, either with software or hardware. But as corporates would still demand today's flexible models, manufacturers would have to produce both, driving up costs for all. In addition, the PCA claims, manufacturers would relocate their "closed box" operations to the Far East, with a damaging effect on the UK economy.
An EC spokesman denied the proposals would drive up prices. "They encourage good practice among retailers and producers," he said, "and they will lead to an increase in quality."
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