What’s the point of trade associations?
A perceived lack of proactivity from the PCA by some members of the Brigantia indie retailer community led them to start up their own trade association called ITACS. However, ITACS is run by a small number of volunteers, all with day jobs, so there's only so much it can achieve.
As ever, it all comes down to money. When we suggested to Warburton that it shouldn't have taken a Sky News investigation before the TCA acted, he replied "Formal investigation on a regular basis would be the only way for us to ‘certify' our members." And that would cost a lot more than the TCA can afford from the membership revenue it collects.
What isn't so clear is how much that revenue is and where, if it doesn't get spent on investigating its member, it does end up. Warburton wasn't able to provide information on the TCA's revenue, who provides it and how it is spent when we spoke.
We then asked what use a code of practice is, if it doesn't prevent this kind of behaviour. "It doesn't have to have much influence on a reseller's behaviour, because most are good, honest businesspeople," said Warburton. "The problem is the most codes of practice are only referred to when things go wrong."
Warburton concluded by stressing that the role of the TCA is broader than just booting out members for breaking its rules. "The code of practice is just one of our functions. Keeping the trade informed of a number of issues is a big part of what we do. We also facilitate networking between our members."
This begs the question: what is the point of trade associations? Have you ever heard of Intellect, the organisation that claims to represent the UK technology industry? What would the channel like a trade association to do, and would you be prepared to pay for it? And, perhaps more importantly, what kind of protection do consumers expect from a trade association?
We would value your answers to the questions above and views on any other issues arising from this story in the HEXUS.community discussion forums.
UPDATE - 11:00 5 August 2009
Keith Warburton has sent us a response to this story which we have published, verbatim, on the next page.