How do I protect myself from a bad deal?

Top Tips on what to look out for when buying printers/copiers and how to get the best deal (and protect yourself from pushy salespeople)!

There are 2 certain things in life; death and taxes. Wait, add to that: reading a contract, ideally before signing, is good.

Nowhere is this truer than in the printer/copier market, a sector adept at slotting in clauses to increase their income and lock in your ‘loyalty’.

Maybe, it’s not the most exciting thing you’ll do in a working day but sussing out the contract is much easier and quicker with this guide.

Here’s what to look out for when buying new printers/copiers for your office to secure the best deal and avoid signing up to a bad deal:

Get 3 Quotes and don’t pay for features you don’t need

No doubt you’re already seeking at least three tenders or proposals to get a like-for-like comparison – here’s a helpful guide on writing tenders.

Ask yourself: What percentage of features do you use in all the phones, laptops and the millions of devices you’ve amassed?  Probably 20% if you’re lucky – and printers/copiers are the same.

Don’t pay for features that staff are not going to use.

Avoid second-hand printers

Avoid second-hand printers; how often have you seen colleagues take their life’s frustrations out on the poor old printer/copier?

The second-hand printer you really need to beware of is the in-house contract for rental, usually offered when you’re not eligible for direct finance.

Their extended terms are expensive and they’re often difficult to exit from, plus as the technology will be older it will be more expensive to run, less reliable and less environmentally friendly.

Rental can be a good option, just not rental of a 5 year old machine for a 5 year contract.

Don't be rushed by an urgent offer or pushy salesperson.
With an average lifetime cost of £8,000 across 5 years, your next printer or photocopier purchase is important enough to take your time over.

Printer/Copier Contract Commitments and Exit Clauses – what to look out for

Which brings us on to the first of two main areas to consider; what is your commitment, both in terms of the length of the contract and the exit clauses? 
A shorter contract can give you more flexibility as your organisation and technology changes. Look out for:

  • Minimum volume charges
  • Can I walk away, within the contract period, without penalty?
  • Is there a separate but linked Service Agreement?
  • Early settlement charges – these can be up to 75% of the average remaining cost of the Service Agreement, and 100% of the lease/rental amount.
  • Can I upgrade or downgrade my machine if needs change, and what costs apply?
  • Does the contract automatically renew or extend at the end of the initial term?
  • If, yes, what is the notice period?
  • Consider if the printer is needed for a project whose funding may disappear? Particularly relevant if you’re in the Third Sector.


Printer/Copier Charges to Check

The second area is charges. There’s a range of areas where charges can apply, bumping up the total lifetime cost:

  • Are there additional charges? Such as, delivery, installation, admin, network, consumable delivery, collection, removal, and hard drive removal
  • Is the Service Agreement subject to annual increases?
  • Are all parts, consumables and labour charges included?
  • Do any contracts have administration fees?
  • Is the price including VAT? Particularly important if you’re a charity and/or not VAT registered.
  • Factor in additional finance costs which will be change depending on whether you have decided to purchase vs lease vs rental.

Two final words of warning. Don’t be taken in by “urgent” or time-limited offers, take your time to review the details. Even if that deal has “expired” there’ll be another one along soon.

Lastly, no matter how much you love golf, try and avoid deals with incentives such as a golf day or any other incentive for that matter. You know, as well as the rest of us, that incentives are just added to the base cost.

Good luck!

SP&C have created a Buyer Beware process to offer Sector organisations guidance for copier/printer related procurement.

Request a copy of our Buyer Beware tool for the Third Sector here.

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