It's happened again. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a DSG (Dixons Store Group) outlet, PC Advisor has uncovered yet another example of the retail giant (comprising Dixons, PC World and Currys) selling second hand goods as new.

On Friday 9th January Colchester based Gary Davey bought a Hercules AIW 9800 SE graphics card from his local PC World outlet. The box on the shelf was empty, which Gary assumed was for security purposes. At the till a security guard was sent to get the goods.

On returning home he opened the box to find the card in an anti static bag with sticker stating 'Fully Guaranteed Exchanged Product', revealing yet another case of a breakdown in the retail group's returns procedure.

PC World apologised, admitted a mix up and offered a replacement - but Gary went for a refund instead.

On its own this would be just another dull story. Unfortunately this is far from being an isolated incident. Instead it represents the latest in a long line of breaches in DSG?s malfunctioning returns procedure.

Here is a brief history:

June 2001: PC Advisor reveals that between November 2000 and January 2001 a major London branch of Dixons sold the same notebook as 'new' to two separate people without removing a previous customer's personal information from the hard drive.

We discover that Dixon's store managers are not required to tell anyone in the company about staff misdemeanours, so senior managers are oblivious to the real extent of the problem.

July 2001: the Cheltenham branch of Dixons joins the club when they sell a 'new' Toshiba laptop to Duncan Stephens. His computer is second-hand, and contains the internet dial up details for a previous owner. Dixons try to blame the previous owner, claiming he hadn't told them that the hard drive still contained data. Later they blame it instead on 'inexperienced staff' instead.

June 2002: PC World Harlow branch sells a 'new' hard drive to one of our readers. Turns out to contain name and details of the previous owner. Our reader is billed twice for the full cost of his drive.

Christmas 2002: Ray Dickson buys a 'new' £200 CD-RW drive from the Dixons outlet at The Fort shopping complex in Erdington, Birmingham. To his horror he is confronted with explicit pornographic footage and images of young children. In addition, the CD contains a previous owner's CV and other personal information.

July 2003: Reader Dave Stirrat bought a PC from PC World. The machine gave him trouble from the start, and eventually PC World agreed that they would provide Dave with a replacement.

The original PC was with PC World at the time, and Dave made a point of telling them that the hard drive contained personal information ' he wanted to make sure that it didn't stay on the hard drive, no matter what happened to the computer.

PC World's employees were reassuring, saying the computer would be returned to the manufacturer, where the drive would be wiped of all data. Dave settled down to enjoy his new computer. A week or so later he received a phone call from a total stranger who had bought a new computer from PC World. The hard drive contained all of Dave's personal details, and those of his girlfriend.

True to form, the PC World press office blamed the 'accident' on 'Human error'. Staff had apparently mixed up Dave's returned machine with an incoming consignment of new machines.