Tag Archives: Marketwatch

Computer Repairs, Consumer Protection

This one has been making the rounds:
CBC.ca – Marketplace – What you should know before you call a geek in to fix your computer

Typical television story: Several computer repair technicians fooled by television team. Consumers be warned.
[Disclaimer: though I’ve been troubleshooting most of my own and some of other people’s computer-related issues, I’m no technician and have never been one. I do consider myself something of a power-user and enough of a fan of geek culture to half-jokingly call myself a “wannabe geek.”]

Comments on the show’s site are particularly numerous and many of them are quite virulent. Comments on the Consumerist page about the Marketplace piece seem more insightful than those on the CBC site. That might have to do with the Consumerist coverage of the Geek Squad scandal making Consumerist readers aware of the current debates about computer techs.

While I do agree with many of the comments about the report being biased/one-sided/skewed/sensationalist, there could be more discussion about consumer protection and about technical training. I even think that the show’s overall presentation style may have generated more knee-jerk reactions than reflections on the state of the computer repair industry. If so, that’s quite sad.

Come to think of it, the segment’s title could lead to something interesting: what is it that people should know before they get service from a computer technician?

A general idea could be: “computer repairs are often quite expensive, quality of service may vary, there are other issues to consider besides the cost of the repairs.”

The show itself mentioned a few pieces of advice from people with whom they talked:

  • Fix it yourself
  • Search online for tech advice
  • Take control. Back up your data
  • Keep virus and spyware protection up to date
  • Get advice from support lines
  • Get referrals
  • Get more than one quote

All good advice, IMHO. Not that easy to implement, though. And several points remain, in terms of consumer protection.
This all reminds me of a recent episode (#69) of the Real Deal podcast about how to “Be your own IT department.” Simple yet useful advice on how to set things up for a friend or family member who may need simple tech support with their computer.

Some ideas popping in my head about computer repairs:

  • Training in computer maintenance is valuable. Maybe it should be provided as a community service.
  • Given the stakes (especially in terms of privacy), certification programs and hiring requirements for computer technicians should probably be as strict as those for other professions.
  • Some association/union/corporation for computer technicians could help deal with issues like these as is the case with other professions.
  • Though analogies with other professions are tempting, there are issues which seem quite specific to computer techs (especially having to do with data privacy and value).
  • Maybe we just need computers that are easier to troubleshoot.

Ah, well…