When people think ethics, they tend to imagine it only relates to fair trade with poor countries, but it applies to UK businesses as well. It’s astounding to think that in 2018 that we still meet with new customers who have come to us because of unscrupulous businesses who are willing to put profit over their business relationship and use deliberate tactics to ‘rip off’ their customers.
Common bad practices involve locking new and existing customers into bad contracts, hiking up prices without telling them and changing contract terms without any notice at all. In the past month alone we have either met or spoken with a number of organisations that have had frustrating, bad, or downright illegal offerings and contracts from companies selling Photocopiers, MPS and other solutions.
Spotting the Danger Signs
An ethical approach in the Managed Print industry is a real issue that companies need to be alerted to, or else they may well become victims. There are some particular practices which should ring alarm bells, which we have included below, but the most important piece of advice is not to sign the dotted line until you are completely confident that you have asked the right questions and recorded the answers in the correct format.
Tricks of the Trade
Examples of bad practices to watch out for:
- The sales person arriving at 4:55pm, deliberately late, knowing you are leaving at 5.00 and pressuring you into signing the new contract without reading it, promising it’s the same as the quote they sent or verbally told you about over the phone.
- The trusting staff member in some cases has signed (and in others has not even been asked to renew) but has later discovered that the new contracts were double the price for half the hardware and servicing or for a 6 years term (24 quarters) instead of the 24 months originally promised.
- Others who have been paying a price annually, now scan read a renewal contract to check the price is the same, only to realise later that the same price is now per quarter (rather than annually), effectively quadrupling their costs without a way out of it.
- The terms of a renewal contract show low prices for printing but have unrealistic minimum printing requirements and harsh penalties for not meeting them. The fines for not meeting printing minimal printing numbers can be as much as £700,000 if you are a large company. Ensure, if you have a minimum printing requirement, that it is easily achievable.
- An engineer arrives on site to perform maintenance or patching and sets the default printer setting to colour (not black and white). This change can cost a large company many thousands of pounds if they are not aware. Please ensure you have a written agreement that default settings are agreed and will not be changed by on-site engineers or during maintenance.
Protecting your business against bad contracts
The main way to protect yourself in this area is not to get complacent or make assumptions. Always take the time to check thoroughly and wait until you are confident and happy in the product and service you are going to receive. Ask as many questions as you need to and make sure your answers have been confirmed in writing. This could save you a fortune in costs and remove a potential nightmare in legal disputes later down the line.
3 things to keep in mind…
- Critically never sign a lease or any other contract under pressure or if it isn’t completed fully (so can’t be completed unfairly after you have signed it). We have also seen this many times over the years, and it can lead to some horrible outcomes for businesses.
- Always get the final quote in writing (NOT verbally) and check the contract to ensure the terms are the same. Also ensure there is a cooling off period written into the contract to protect your business as a buyer – there is no general protection for opting out of commercial business contracts unless it is written into the terms and conditions of the contract itself.
- Another obvious but crucial piece of advice is to ALWAYS take a copy of the contract before the sales person leaves so the contract cannot be tampered with later on.
Finding an Ethical Company
This article is not trying to make anyone believe that everyone sales person is bad, but rather to highlight that caution is a good approach when dealing with some technology companies. We always advise checking things like testimonials or even contacting their current customers when dealing with a new business.
About Us – KJL Document Solutions (a KJL Group Company)
KJL Document Solutions have a clear goal of “Service before profit”. The KJL Group have built an excellent reputation over the past twenty years, helping customers remove themselves from companies with bad practices and offering them a greater level of protection and confidence in their future. We understand how important trust is and always look to take extra steps to protect our customers from harm. This is why we are considered an ethical business.
When you are looking to upgrade your Printers, IT systems or have any other technological requirement that you need help with, please feel free to contact us for a zero pressure, high quality and cost effective proposal that is above all honest and ethical with no hidden costs and catches.
We Can Examine your Quote or Contract for Free
If you have recently received a quote or contract or have a legacy contract that you are not happy with and want us to take a look at it for you, to spot potential warning signs and make sure you aren’t being overcharged, please let us know and we will be happy to help. If it is competitive and fair, we would simply say that we think it looks good. If it’s expensive or most importantly if it’s not honest and transparent we will tell you and help with advice or alternative suggestions.
Remember, that there are many good sales professionals out there, representing their companies properly and looking after their clients best interests as well, they are not all bad, but unfortunately there are still a lot of bad apples out there.