Online Direct blasts Tiny for its "free" PC offer

As the trend towards cheaper PCs catches on in the UK, a bitter row has broken out about the validity of the so-called "free PC" offers.

UK ISP, Online-Direct -- which offers discounted PCs and cut-price Internet access -- has blasted PC retailer Tiny for claiming it is the first to offer "free" PCs with its own-brand Tiny Online Internet service.

Tom Anderson, general manager of Online-Direct told ZDNet News: "I want to go on the record and say Tiny's offer is a joke. I've read the small print and you only get a PC with their Internet service after 12 months. What if someone doesn't have a PC in the first place? After 12 months the PC's specifications will probably be out of date anyway. It's laughable."

Tiny launched its free PC packages in the UK last week. Its offer requires users to subscribe to Tiny telecom's service for one year. They they must also ring up monthly call charges of at least £25 ex VAT (£29.38 inc VAT) to qualify for the free computer. The catch is that customers must wait 12 months for their PC.

As is the case with the majority of freebie offers, the devil is in the detail: if customers want a free PC immediately, they must commit at the outset to pay TINY telecom a minimum £25 ex VAT per month in call charges via direct debit.

A Tiny spokesperson defended the company's offer: "I'd like to know how anyone thinks it is a con. It is certainly not a dodgy offer. People can have a free PC immediately if they sign up for our £25 a month service," the company spokesperson said. He added that Tiny plans to upgrade its computers so that customers will not be left with outdated technology.

Tiny is also seeking to expand its Tiny Online portal, and plans to use content from Microsoft's MSN

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