Former PC Company boss Colin Brown has written to customers of the failed company to propose a new business venture called the PC Company Club.
In an email sent last week, Brown accepted that former customers might feel aggrieved and frustrated that they had not received service and support when the PC Company closed. He suggested former customers might like to band together to form the PC Company Club, which would provide mutual support and special offers to its members.
“It also gives me the opportunity to get to know all of my old customers better, and for you to communicate with me — even if you are upset! I will try to help everyone in any way I can,” Brown wrote.
Receiver Kim Thompson says Brown bought the company’s stock and assets, including the customer list, about six months ago.
“Basically Colin bought all of the intellectual property and the stock. He paid far more for it than anybody else would,” says Thompson.
Brown says he sent messages to about 14,000 former customers to gauge interest in a club.
“We have had a couple of negative emails as you’d expect, but I can count those on one hand,” he says.
Asked whether the club would be set up as a company, Brown says no decision has been made. He denies that the proposed club is a commercial venture.
“We’re trying to see if there’s any way that we can create a fraternity. It’s not as if we’re trying to go into business and create a new PC Company.”
Membership would be free, he says. “There’s not been an ulterior motive in trying to make money with this.”
The response has been “really positive”, Brown says. “We have already had 1000 signups so I expect it will go ahead anyway.”
The PC Company mailing list might have about 50,000 addresses, Brown says. He disputes a suggestion that reusing the list violated privacy guidelines.
“Absolutely not. We will be totally committed the whole time to customers’ privacy, but we’re not bulk-emailing everyone all the time.”
However, one lawyer says there’s a good case to argue that giving individuals’ contact information to a third party and using it, without their consent, may well breach the Privacy Act. Wellington-based Wigley & Co’s Michael Wigley says only individuals are protected under the act, so companies may not be affected in the same way, but companies are only entitled to use private information for the use for which it was gathered.
The Privacy Commissioner’s office declined comment, saying it would deal with any complaints as they arose.
In his email, Brown told customers he was “devastated” when the PC Company went into receivership and that he had also lost property in Hamilton and Auckland. However, he said he had “fronted” to creditors and worked with the receiver.
“If we could maintain a network of PC Company customers, we might, in time, be able to set up a national network of support people who can support PC Company customers in their area. Local New Zealanders supporting New Zealanders was what it was all about for us, and it would give me a huge sense of pleasure if I could see you were all supported again.”
The planned club would create support networks among former customers, offer lower priced consumables, special offers, software draws and a complimentary copy of a book Brown intends to write.
“It’s very tough being in business and any information I can give to entrepreneurs would be great, as well as telling some of the PC Company story,” the email says.
The PC Company went into receivership in September last year. In November Brown denied claims from two former franchisees that the company installed second-hand parts in new PCs and said the franchisees were motivated by an “adversarial situation” over money.