UK retailer caught selling second hand PC as new

LONDON (11/24/2003) - It's happened again. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a Dixons Store Group (DSG) outlet in the U.K., PC Advisor has uncovered yet another example of the giant retail group (comprising Dixons, PC World and Currys) compromising confidential customer data.

It's the same old story: a complete breakdown in the company's returns procedure. A faulty machine goes back for repair, someone sticks it in the wrong stock room, the hard disk fails to get wiped, the machine gets stripped down, the hard disk ends up inside a 'new' system and the new owner gets access to the original owner's personal data.

Reader Dave Stirrat recently appealed for help in our online forum, saying that he had bought a new computer from PC World in July of this year. The machine gave him trouble from the start, and eventually PC World agreed that they would provide Dave with a replacement.

The original PC was with PC World at the time, and Dave made a point of telling them that the hard drive contained personal information -- he wanted to make sure that it didn't stay on the hard drive, no matter what happened to the computer.

PC World's employees were reassuring, saying the computer would be returned to the manufacturer, where the drive would be wiped of all data. Dave settled down to enjoy his new computer. A week or so later he received a phone call from a total stranger who had bought a new computer from PC World. The hard drive contained all of Dave's personal details, and those of his girlfriend.

True to form, the PC World press office blamed the 'accident' on 'human error'. Staff had apparently mixed up Dave's returned machine with an incoming consignment of new machines.

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