Over the years I have seen a few misrepresentations in contracts that I thought had been stamped out of the industry. Recent experience suggests otherwise. I’m not saying these items are common practice, just that there are still a few suppliers out there who use them.
If you are about to take the plunge, then here are a few things to look out for:
1. Colour clicks v full colour clicks. Some devices are capable of ‘clicking’ the meter for every colour that is printed, i.e. cyan, magenta, yellow and black which effectively makes your full colour costs much higher than you expected. Imagine that your provider states it is only 3.0p for colour and 0.5p for mono. In this case, you would pay 3 x 3.0p (cyan, magenta and yellow = 3.0p each) and 1 x 0.5p (mono) making your full colour click cost a whopping 9.5p. If this is part of an MPS contract where you are given an inclusive volume of prints, then your excess costs will be enormous as the items you thought to be one click will actually be four.
Always ensure that your service or MPS contract states the colour charges as FULL COLOUR only. If the phrase ‘development’, or ‘composite colour’ is used anywhere then ask for confirmation of a full colour cost. If you are in any doubt about how you are currently being charged then take a meter reading and then run a double-sided A3 full colour copy or print. How many clicks did it take?
2. Inclusive volumes that are actually A4 only even though you believe you are getting A3/SRA3. Some current service contracts show a ‘minimum bill’ that includes a number of full colour images. I have seen several cases where the customer believes that the inclusive volume is A3/SRA3, only to be invoiced for the additional cost because only A4 prints were included. Always ensure that your service provider states whether inclusive volumes are A4 or A3/SRA3, in writing with confirmation from the local service manager.
3. Keep a wary eye out for contract ‘roll-overs’ at least six months before the end of your lease or service contract. Some organisations will lock you into a full year of additional costs if you haven’t written to them to terminate your agreement. It doesn’t matter if you are negotiating a new agreement with them and believe this action is ‘notice’. If you subsequently decide to go to another suppler they will cry foul and hit you with a year of costs. Always ensure that your write to them, issuing a notice to terminate your contract at least 90 days before the contract actually ends.
4. Some providers write into their contracts that they reserve the right to charge you up to 40% of their expected service income if you decide to seek an alternative supplier before the end of the service contract. If your current provider is presenting you with such a clause, ask for it to be removed, unless you are happy to pay charges for service you didn’t have, on volumes you didn’t produce to a supplier you are trying to leave. If they won’t give you a service contract without such a clause… hmm.
Some service contracts are written as a five-year minimum period even though the leases are only three years. Exercise some caution over the length of the service contract and never let it be longer than your lease.
5. Software support charges for fiery RIPS is common and in most cases fair. You don’t want a RIP that doesn’t work and has no support. That said, these can be hidden in finance agreements and as such will attract additional interest charges. Always ensure that the cost of software support is clearly identified on your contracts and that you are aware of how it is billed.
6. Training costs are a reasonable charge but quite often customers do not realise that they will be invoiced separately until it is too late. Ask your equipment provider for a clear statement on how much the training/installation cost is and how it is being charged.
7. Some suppliers charge absurd sums to remove old equipment especially if they didn’t get the replacement machine order. Ask for written confirmation before a contract starts on the cost of removing equipment at the end of the contract.
8. Leasing tends to be very straight forward these days, although I recently saw a case where a customer was told he had a 20-quarter payment profile, but on close inspection he was about to be charged 21 quarters. Always ensure that every amount being paid is clearly stated and if it is more than 20 quarters on a five-year lease or 12 quarters on a three-year lease, ask WHY?
The above are just a few items that I am aware of, though I expect that there are more. I would welcome any additions or points that anyone wishes to make.
To avoid getting caught out by any of these, my suggestion to you is to seek confirmation of what you are buying/leasing IN WRITIING and in the contract!!