The inadequate returns procedure at DSG (Dixons Store Group) — which owns Dixons, Currys, PC World and The Link — has tripped up the company once again, resulting in probably its most odious error so far.
Just before Christmas, Ray Dickson bought a £200 CD-RW drive from the Dixons outlet at The Fort shopping complex in Erdington, Birmingham.
After attaching the drive and turning his PC on, Ray was understandably shocked to discover a CD featuring video clips of child rape and other "horrific" sexual images of young children loaded in the drive. What most horrified 47-year-old Dickson was that the images could easily have been seen by his nine-year-old son.
According to Dickson, he was assured by Dixons sales staff at the time of purchase that the product was brand new, even though the package had clearly been tampered with.
But it turns out that the drive did have a previous owner. The original purchaser had taken the drive home, where he proceeded to copy personal information — including his CV — in addition to pornographic images and film clips of young children on to the offending disc.
Dissatisfied with the drive, the original owner then apparently returned it to the store but forgot to remove the disc first.
An "inexperienced" member of staff, according to the DSG press office, "inadvertently stuck it back on the shelf" to be sold as new.
He had apparently checked inside the box and saw that none of the five CDs that came bundled with the drive had been opened, and therefore assumed that the product was new, despite the fact that the box no longer sported an outer layer of cellophane. Had he correctly followed the group's recently refined set of returns procedures this would not have happened, said a DSG official.
In a bid to reduce the number of secondhand goods being sold as new, DSG has introduced a stricter set of procedures. Once an open package is returned it gets a sticker with a seven-figure number and a barcode, whereupon it is sent back to the warehouse.
According to a Dixons spokesman, this slip-up will be treated by a stiff dose of training. The severity of the incident provoked an apologetic phone call from Dixons MD, Chris Langley to the Dickson family. Meanwhile, a 34-year-old man from the Bordsley Green area of Birmingham is believed to be helping police with their inquiries.
To regular readers of our ConsumerWatch pages this breakdown in DSG's returns procedure won't come as any great surprise. Over the past couple of years, PC Advisor has regularly uncovered incidents involving DSG outlets selling secondhand kit as new, often inadvertently passing on the personal details of the previous owner in the process.