Smartalk, which operates the ‘PC for £100’ deal through its pchelp arm, has become the subject of a Trading Standards guidance note, following the termination of the company’s credit card payment facility.

Potential customers are now being asked for a £100 cheque to guarantee delivery of the PC in 6 to 8 weeks - a situation that will deny consumers’ credit card protection.

The guidance note was summed up by a Lancashire County Council Trading Standards spokesperson, who said: "Trading Standards will neither condemn or endorse any company. We would however provide advice as to best practice. Where money is paid in advance and there is a delay in the dispatch of goods potential participants should, in the absence of protection for their advance payments, exercise caution."

Further details of the guidance can be obtained from local Trading Standards offices.

One PC Advisor reader confirmed that a PC had been delivered from the company. However it did not include Lotus SmartSuite, which had been noted in the offer as a possible part of the package.

The supplier of the PCs has also come to light - Elonex. The PC manufacturer confirmed that it had fulfilled a number of large orders to Smartalk, some of which were ‘a couple of hundred’, but the spokesperson could not confirm if larger orders had been placed. She added that the machines had been paid for up front.

This is the latest problem to hit the company, which has attracted much attention with its ‘PC for £100’ deal, which requires customers to complete monthly research questionnaires over a two year period. It was previously hacked on 30 July and a message left on the web page stating ‘Do not trust these people.’

All spokespeople from Smartalk refused to comment on the latest developments.