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PC Association General Guidance & Code of Practice

The Joys of Buying Direct

Purchasing a computer product directly from a manufacturer or a local dealer can be a low cost, efficient and highly effective way of getting hold of top quality products; but not all suppliers operate to the same standards - giving rise to an element of risk. By giving guidance to buyers through it's Code of Practice the Professional Computing Association reduces the risks and strengthens the marketplace.

What is the PCA?


The Professional Computing Association is a trade association of companies, both big and small, which are involved in the PC business. Although many members are 'trade only' manufacturers and distributors, about half of the PCA's members sell direct to users. Whether they are locally based dealers or nationally focussed direct sellers operating off the page or via the internet, they must all demonstrate exemplary levels of service and methods of operation. The Association recognises that quality of product and service is not necessarily related to the amount of business that a company does. PCA members who are dealers or direct sellers come under the guidance of the Code.


Why a Code of Practice ?

Members agree to operate within a Code of Practice, which was prepared following consultation with such bodies as the Office of Fair Trading and the Trading Standards organisation. It details the minimum levels of service you'll get from a decent supplier and highlights some of the extra benefits you'll get when you buy from a member. Members aren't limited to the levels of service outlined in the Code where to go further would result in higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Supporting the Code of Practice


Members should display the Association's logo in their advertising and on their correspondence. If a company is not a current member of the Association they may not make use of the Association's logo nor may they infer by any means that they are part of the Association.


Terms and conditions

Members' terms and conditions of supply will be legible, comprehensive and comprehensible, and will clearly indicate guarantees and warranties. Written quotations, with payment details clearly shown, will be supplied if requested and will be fixed and open for the period stated.

Methods of Trading & Promotion


Members will operate within the Sale of Goods act and comply with the British Codes of Advertising Practice and Sales Promotion Practice; specifically members will ensure that where, by means of advertising in national daily press, goods are offered for sale to the general public VAT inclusive prices will be clearly indicated in accordance with the recommendations made in the Code of Practice for Traders on Price Indications. Members should not, in their advertising or marketing, make direct damaging reference to the products or services of any competitor, whether or not that competitor is a member of the association, unless the member concerned is prepared to substantiate such references. Where performance comparisons are used the member must make every effort to ensure that comparisons are fairly based, including both price and performance information as well as any relevant specification differences.


Delivery Times


Unless otherwise advised, a member's delivery time - (the period between cleared funds being received and goods being available for shipment or collection) will average no more than 14 days - notwithstanding the method of payment agreed upon. Members must maintain records that will enable the PCA to gain a reasonably accurate history of their average delivery times, should that be necessary. DELAY IN DELIVERY If a previously quoted delivery time is likely to be exceeded the member will take steps to promptly notify the customer.


Credit Card Payment


Where business is done using a credit card the member may, with the agreement of the customer, take an initial deposit at time of order. This deposit may be up to but not exceeding 10% of the full invoice value of the goods. The balance may be debited not more than 3 days prior to despatch/pick-up of goods. Members will clearly indicate at time of order the full details and procedures for payment. Where credit card payment is made, members will stick to the terms and conditions of whichever credit card company the customer is using. SAFEGUARDING PRE-PAYMENTS Members should take reasonable steps to safeguard pre-payments, especially those from personal purchasers that are not otherwise safeguarded (e.g. by being made by credit card.) Members who subscribe to the PCA PRE-PAYMENT PROTECTION SCHEME may only advertise this when they have satisfied the requirements of the scheme.


Pre-Payment Protection Screen


The scheme requires participating members (those who are allowed to use the Payment Protection logo in their advertising), to reserve - by means of a Bank Guarantee - a sum of money which can be used only by the Association. The amount will vary according to the turnover of the company concerned. If that member cannot meet its debts and has a receiver appointed, then the PCA can call upon the reserved money, which won't go to anyone else, and will use it to repay (fully or in part) personal purchasers who have pre-paid by personal cheque, or by bank draft, and who have not received the goods ordered. All eligible customers who notify the PCA of their claim within two months of the receiver being appointed will be considered for refund. All valid claims will be met to the same total percentage value, taking into account repayments that claimants may have received from other sources. Buyers should be aware that most computer magazines operate mail order protection schemes (MOPS) which also provide financial protection, and are urged to investigate and make use of those schemes.


Delay Causing Claim for Refund


In the event of any delay causing a delivery time longer than that which was originally agreed, and if full or part pre-payment has been made (cleared funds received), members recognise that the customer is entitled to request a refund of all pre-payments. Any refund due will be made by the member without undue delay and wherever possible by the same means as was originally used for payment.


Quality Control


Members must operate quality control procedures appropriate to the goods being sold. Details of the QC procedures will be supplied to customers upon request.


Dealing with customers general


Members will ensure that staff who deal with customers are appropriately trained. Escalation procedures for sales enquiries, support & technical issues and customer services matters should ensure these issues are handled smoothly efficiently and promptly by appropriately trained staff. In the event that the member does not have appropriately trained staff of his own he must make suitable arrangements with third party suppliers. Members must ensure that sales, support and technical staff have or have available to them appropriate expertise on any hardware product currently being sold (unless that product is specifically excluded in advertising and relevant marketing materials). In this instance "appropriate expertise" is taken to mean the ability to translate the products' features and performance into terms that a typical user or potential user of that product would find understandable. Any "own brand" product sold by members will be eligible for technical support for the lifetime of that product. In some instances "special offer" items may be sold which are not covered by lifetime support, in this case the item(s) concerned must be specifically excluded from lifetime technical support in any relevant advertising and also in any written quotation and invoice.


Money Back Guarantees


In addition to the customers' legal right to request full refund for faulty goods, all PCA members must offer some form of money-back customer satisfaction scheme, details of which are available from the member concerned. Such schemes may, at the discretion of the member concerned, have a charge for restocking when goods are returned not being faulty, and might carry a re-furbishing charge when work is necessary to return the goods to saleable condition as a result of their use or handling by the customer. Re-stocking charges must not exceed 10% of the value of the goods and re-furbishing charges should be the actual cost of making good. Members might, as detailed in their individual terms and conditions, exclude from refund schemes software which has been used or registered or has been opened. Notwithstanding the foregoing, members may not attempt to limit the rights of customers under the Sale of Goods Act. Members may not delay unduly the issuing of a returns authorisation either for faulty goods or for returns made under their customer satisfaction scheme.


The PC Association Code of Practice


Speedy solution

Members must take all reasonable steps to promptly resolve customer complaints and disputes, recognising that prolonged disputes are bad for their business and bad for the standing of the Association and its members as a whole.


Trading Standards Departments


The PCA recommends that members should maintain routine contact with their local Trading Standards Department.


Responding Promptly


A customer's complaint should be recorded. If a complaint is made in writing a response must be made within 14 working days. Members will respond in the medium that the complaint is made in.


Maintaining Records


A manager with executive authority will be made aware of formal complaints received by the company, and records will be kept by the member to enable meaningful statistics to be compiled with regard to customer complaints. The member must have the ability to track any particular complaint through their complaints procedures.


Solving Disputes


The PCA cannot become involved in any dispute centered round a supply date prior to the member joining the association. If the member and the customer cannot satisfactorily resolve an issue, having clearly made realistic efforts to do so, the PCA is willing to help and give impartial guidance to either or both parties and to offer the services of conciliation. Should a complaint become a matter of dispute requiring third party assistance, members agree to co-operate fully with Trading Standards Departments, Consumer Advice Departments or others in attempts to find a solution.


PCA Conciliation - Procedure


If the customer remains unsatisfied with the action taken or solution offered by a Member then the customer may make a written request for the PCA to become involved, enclosing a brief, clear statement of the facts as interpreted by the customer. The PCA will then attempt to negotiate a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. Members will co-operate fully with the PCA in the search for a settlement. PCA officers and Directors will not reveal details of any disputed issue to any outside party. To make a complaint now, click here.


PCA Supported Arbitration


Notwithstanding the outcome of any conciliation, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators offers arbitration services for both personal and business customers of PCA members, as a low cost alternative to court action. Should arbitration be chosen by the agreement of both parties, both the member and the customer must comply with the judgement of the Arbitrator, which is legally binding. The Arbitrator will take into account the provisions of the PCA Code of Practice where this is relevant.


Arbitration for Personal Customers


The cost to personal customers of this service (apart from any award that might be made) will be £100. The service does not cover any consequential losses claimed by the customer.


Arbitration for Business Customers


For cases involving business customers each of the two parties (member and customer) will pay their own costs and share of the arbitrators fees. Further details of the service are available on request.


Costs of Arbitration


The association may, subject to its rules as varied from time to time, require repayment by the member of sums paid by the association to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators or, as a result of Arbitration to the member's customer, on behalf of that member. In any case the member will pay the registration fee as set by the arbitrator, and will pay direct to the customer any sums awarded by the arbitrator.


Arbitration and Subsequent Member Insolvency


Should a member of the association go out of business subsequent to a dispute(s) being referred to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and if that member is thereby unable to meet such award(s) as may be made by the arbitrator the association will meet the award(s) subject to a maximum of £1,000 in respect of any one case, £2,000 in respect of any one member, and £5,000 in total in any one year.


Complaints Where Breaking of the Code of Practice is Alleged


Any member of the public who believes that a member of the Association is breaking the PCA Code of Practice may submit a detailed written complaint to the association. All such complaints will be investigated and an initial (or full) response will be made within 21 days. If further investigation proves necessary any additional response will be made within 90 days. Members authorise investigation of complaints by the PCA and will co-operate fully in such investigation. Where information is disclosed that may be of a commercially sensitive nature it will be handled in confidence by the association and will not be disclosed to any third party.


Disciplinary Action


If a member company cannot prove that it has rectified those aspects of its operation deemed by the Directors of the PCA to contravene the rules membership criteria or Code of Practice, and having been given due opportunity, by means of formal warnings to rectify those relevant aspects the member will be asked, following majority vote of the board, to resign. Failing resignation the membership of that company will be withdrawn. No company that has resigned orad membership withdrawn will be reconsidered for membership of the Association for a period of 12 months from the date of the previous termination of their membership. If membership is resigned or is withdrawn a second time within 36 months of the first withdrawal then it will be for a minimum of twenty four months. No company whose membership has been withdrawn three times may subsequently become a member of the Association.


Publication of Activities


The Association will publish annually a report summarising its activities, including complaints received and their outcome, as well as a summary of cases referred to arbitration. Such information will also be reported to the Office of Fair Trading and will be made available to the press and the public upon request.



The association aims to advise its members how their services may be improved and with this in mind will periodically assess consumer satisfaction.


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