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Pix 4 is top of the class in PC repair shop investigation

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A Shepherd's Bush store has won plaudits from around the world after coming top of the class in an undercover investigation into PC repair shops.

The sting operation, carried out by Sky News, found that five out of six stores in West London wrongly diagnosed computer faults leaving their customer with an excessive bill to pay and some even snooped on the computer owner's files. Only Pix 4 in the West 12 Centre diagnosed the fault correctly and even repaired it free of charge.

Pix 4 store manager Steve said he had received a tremendous response to the outcome of the investigation and that he was “quite chuffed” by it all: “We've had so many emails from around the world congratulating us,” he said. “From Gibraltar, Scotland, the US. We have had an enormous response and a lot of extra enquiries. We're snowed under."

Pix 4 mainly processes films and digital images but also fixes computers as a side-line. “We've been here for 10 years and I've been with the company for 20 - it's good to be recognised. We're very happy. We've always been perfectly straight with people,” he said.

To make their laptop appear faulty, the Sky News investigator loosened a memory chip to prevent Windows from loading - a repair would simply involve having the chip pushed back into place. The laptop was then equipped with screen capture software and a hidden built-in webcam to capture the work of the PC repair specialists.

While other stores were caught out, the Pix 4 manager says he was not at all bothered by the undercover filming: “I didn't mind them filming me,” he said. “Why not? How else are you going to find out if people are ripping you off?”

He said people quite often came into his store with computers that had already been looked at by other repair shops: “We've seen machines in here that have been to other places before and we wonder what they've done to them. Big companies haven't got time and they just don't care,” said Steve.

He says he was particularly shocked at the performance of staff at Revival Computers in neighbouring Hammersmith. According to Sky News they claimed a new motherboard would be needed at a cost of £130. The investigation also reported that at the same store, surveillance software captured employees browsing files and copying holiday photos onto a memory stick. Inside one of the system's documents, another employee found fake banking login details and repeatedly attempted to access the customer's bank account.

Another store which featured in the investigation was Digitech in Putney, where staff were quick to fix the fault but were also found to be browsing through the system's pictures. A Digitech technician attempted to hide his tracks by clearing the list of recent documents, and a statement from the firm states that the photo browsing was merely an attempt to ensure working memory.

Although not found to be snooping data, PC World Brentford demanded an advance payment of £230 for a new motherboard. The store has since apologised and refunded the money.

Don from Ennismore ICT Consultancy Services in W12 said : "Many people with computers only have a basic knowledge of how the machines work internally. They trust the repairer to know what is wrong and fix it, perhaps not fully understanding that that person will have unfettered access to all the machine's contents.

"This investigation also reinforces a golden rule: never put information on a computer that you don't want other people to see. People must, for whatever reason, be more cautious about the information they put on their computers and social-networking sites."

July 23, 2009

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