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Dixons Group sells on secondhand kit as new again

Failure to wipe compromises data protection

We've uncovered two further cases of PC World failing to wipe used hard disks, selling them on as new and, in the process, revealing the personal data belonging to the original owners to third parties.

Hertfordshire-based reader Jon Rome purchased what he believed to be a brand new hard drive from the Harlow branch of PC World on 28 March. Regular readers of our ConsumerWatch section won't be surprised to hear what happened when Mr Rome got home.

On installing the drive he found that it had a previous owner, displaying the log off name of Lamb & Cooke. He checked the serial number of the drive and found it did not match that of the proof of purchase label on the box.

Not only had he been sold a secondhand unit at full price, but yet again the personal details of another DSG (Dixons Store Group) customer had been passed on to a third party without their knowledge or consent.

To add insult to injury Mr Rome was phoned the next day by Barclaycard to ask why he had been billed twice for his transaction. An error at the checkout counter by PC World sales staff, it transpired, was to blame.

After writing to the DSG complaints department on 2 April, he received a reply nine days later from customer service advisor, Shirley Cooke, thanking him for his letter dated 6 January 2001. In her letter Cooke ensured him that the relevant area manager "will take steps to make sure that this type of incident cannot happen again" and that "this was an isolated incident".

By the way Lamb & Cook, if you're out there, get in touch via the PC Advisor ConsumerWatch forum. We reckon you've got a good case under the Data Protection Act.

Not to be outdone by PC World, sister chain Dixons has also been at it. Reader Duncan Stephens purchased a Toshiba Satellite S1800-400 laptop from Dixons' Cheltenham store on 31 July 2001.

After booting up for the first time, he found that his supposedly brand new notebook already had Lineone.net internet dialup details for someone called Jonathon Mole.

According to Dixons, Mr Mole had returned the PC to the Gloucester branch a week after purchase. Mr Mole had apparently told Dixons that the laptop was unused. "Dixons should have checked this for themselves," argues a justifiably affronted Mr Stephens.


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