I couldn’t believe what we uncovered this week. We came across an organisation who are extremely unhappy with their office printing solution provider.

Yes I know. I’m sure this is something that happens a lot. And in itself, it’s not “oh my god” territory.

But wait until I tell you why & you might change your mind…

A couple of years ago the office manager for this organisation decided they required a big office printing multi-function device (photocopier). As their printing users had grown, they required extra functionality (like A3 & high speed scanning) & they had to replace all the old (expensive to run) small desktop printers they had amalgamated.

So they scoured the local area and invited a small number of suppliers to meet with them, to understand their needs and to come back with recommendations.

After a couple of weeks of negotiation they settled on a preferred supplier. Who (in their eyes) recommended the right equipment at a fair price with an agreeable cost per page print/copy charge. Which covered replacement cartridges, parts, maintenance & no doubt some profit for the supplier too.

The cost of a new big office printing multi-function device (photocopier) is anywhere between £2,500 & £10,000. Depending on speed, volume & functionality. And unless your organisation has lots of spare cash in the bank (and I don’t come across many). It’s something you have to lease. Usually over a 3 or 5 years period. The office manager decided to lease it over 5 years & also signed a 5 year service agreement (cost per page) with the supplier.

I can hear you say ‘why spend this sort of money’ on a big multi-function printer. Surely it can’t be cost effective? Well it is if your print/copy volume is relatively high. The cost for each page printed or copied can be up to 75% cheaper than a standard desktop printer. And the saving easily cover the quarterly lease cost and still deliver significant money savings to your organisation too.

Anyway, lets get back to the real life story & situation…

Initially everything was fantastical. The equipment was fit for their purpose and was savings them a substantial amount too.

Lets fast forward 3 years to the current day to find out why the office manager & organisation are now so unhappy. It’s nothing to do with the equipment or service provided. The equipment is still performing as it should and if anything goes wrong the supplier is out to fix it as they should.

But what if I told you the supplier has increased their cost per page price by 50% in just 3 years. And the extra charges don’t end there.

They have also brought in a scanning charge. Yes that’s right! For every page the customer wants to scan the supplier is charging them an additional fee.

And after doing a bit of research (as I’ve never heard of a scan charge before) it’s true. There are many big multi-function printing solution (photocopier) providers now starting to charge for each page that you scan too.

Can you now see why this organisation is so unhappy?

It seems the supplier never guaranteed a fixed price for the agreement term. And had a clause (not discussed with the customer) in their terms & conditions, which allowed them to put their prices up with just 30 days written notice. Including charging for scanning.

Now you might say that’s the customers fault for not reading the terms & conditions. But I don’t see it this way. For me the supplier has to be honest and transparent with the customer. And any possible price increases need to be highlighted before signing. Some terms & conditions are made to be very complicated and lengthy on purpose.

And it doesn’t end there either. Even though the office manager & organisation are very unhappy and feel hoodwinked. They can’t just cancel the agreement and walk away. The supplier has left them with 2 choices:

  1. Complete the 5 year agreement and put up with the extra charges.
  2. Pay the remaining 2 years of the agreement at the current rates, averaged against your previous usage.

Obviously, we are trying our best to help…

But the only thing we can do. Is to install 1 of our refurbished photocopiers (free to the customer), which will bring their cost per page price back down to an affordable level and get rid of the extra scanning charges (we never charge for scanning).

But for this to work. The customer has to put their existing photocopier into storage until the end of the original 5 year agreement. Whilst still paying their quarterly lease charge. But at least they are no longer paying the previous supplier anymore, as they are not using it.

It’s not ideal. But at least it’s a way of getting their costs back under control and side lining the previous supplier. Who technically has not done anything illegal. Other than not being transparent of any extra possible charges.

One caveat to this though. There are even some suppliers out there who have worked this situation out too. And have included a clause in their terms & conditions, which covers a machine that is no longer used but is still within their agreement term. And the clause will say something like:

“The service agreement will be considered to have been terminated by you if the equipment is used at monthly levels below 50% of the average monthly usage over the previous 12 months or since installation if this is less than 12 months”

In it’s most basic format & in conjunction with the other clauses in their T&C’s, this clause means. If you stop using the machine the supplier has the right to charge you for the average print, copy or scan (if they charge for this) for the remainder of the agreement immediately.

As an example, if you have 2 years remaining on your agreement and your average monthly print/copy/scan spend is £100 a month. You will receive a termination invoice for £2,400 and there is absolutely nothing you can do about.

I’m not kidding or trying to scare you in any way. I personally know of 1 big office printing multi-function device (photocopier) supplier who do exactly this. Where do you think I got the clause from? And if you don’t believe me get in contact and I’ll send you a copy.

Listen. Big office printing multi-function devices (photocopiers) are fantastic pieces of technology, and in the right circumstances provide an organisation with many benefits. Including significant money saving. But, please choose your supplier wisely. Choose a supplier you can 100% trust, who’s willing to guarantee your cost per page price for the full term of your agreement, and who will never charge you for scanning.

I’m sure there are many more horror stories about big office printing multi-function device (photocopier) suppliers. And if you have one of your own I’d love to hear from you and provide you with the opportunity to tell your own story.