Hi, my name is Glenn Morgan and I work as an IT Manager for Unique Copiers Ltd. We pride ourselves at Unique Copiers on being open and honest to our customers at all levels of negotiating a contract and when your Photocopiers/Printer is under a services agreement with ourselves at UCL. This unfortunately does not apply to a lot of our competitors. We would like to raise awareness of such bad practices in our industry to ensure that when selecting your supplier for a Photocopier/Printer that you make the right choice.
Published by Daily Mirror
Schools stunned by ‘hidden’ copy costs which ”deprive children of books”
- 20:00, 14 MAY 2014
- BY ANDREWPENMAN
Investigative columnist Andrew Penman reports on a firm that actually charges schools three times more than it initially appears to
Clear charges: Jason Collins and Barry Ferdinand of Apogee Corporation
Office equipment giant Apogee Corporation boasts: “We take great care to word our documents in plain English so that they are easy to understand.”
The large figures on one of its photocopier service agreements sent to a school and forwarded to me are plain enough: 5p per colour copy and 0.5p for mono.
What could possibly be ambiguous about that?
A lot, it turns out, when the price it charges per colour copy is more than three times that – 15.5p – if you’re using a Ricoh brand machine.
Yet this figure appears nowhere on the contract, and the maths setting out how it is calculated are buried in the small print.
Agreements such as this prompted Chas Jordan to use his 30 years’ experience in the office equipment business to set up Fair Contract Associates to help schools and charities hit by so-called “bill shock”.
“I threaten bad publicity, that normally works,” he says.
“I just tell them to sue, but make sure they understand that if they do I will get the Press in court and make it very public.”
Fighting back: Chas Jordan
Describing the Apogee photocopier contract, he says the true cost is “hidden after all the drivel about double sided copies and A3 copies”.
Another photocopier agreement showed that the number of pages copied was just over 118,000 but the contract meant the unfortunate customer was charged for more than 336,000.
That meant an extra £9,000 being added to the bill.
“Contracts like these deprive our children of school books,” he says.
The latest accounts for London-based Apogee show a turnover of £63million and the four directors, including founders Jason Collins and Barry Ferdinand, were paid £794,000.
Spokesman Alan Pierpoint insisted that there was nothing wrong with its contracts, saying they contained the explicit warning “Please read all terms & conditions”.
“In my view our charges are very clearly explained,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that before a customer comes to sign a service agreement, there will inevitably have been discussions with them concerning our charges.”
The trouble is, as the National Association of Head Teachers puts it: “We don’t want heads to be experts in hire purchase agreements; we want heads to be experts in teaching.”
Its spokesperson said: “We do offer advice on procurement and have assisted members in the past who have run into problems with over-priced contracts for office equipment.
“Many heads assume the people they are dealing with are upfront and decent when this is not always the case.”
The National Association of School Business Managers is only too aware of the problem.
“This is an area of concern, particularly for those schools that do not have a school business manager trained in overseeing complex decisions on contracts,” said executive director Stephen Morales.
“NASBM believes that schools should not enter any such contracts unless they can first draw on internal expertise or similar advice from the local council, otherwise there is a real risk that money could be diverted from the classroom to meet exorbitant contract costs.”
How to check
If you are leasing photocopiers, you can check how much you’re being charged by noting the meter reading showing the number of copies made.
Then make a single colour copy and check the meter again. If it has increased by more than one, question your supplier.
Repeat the process with a mono sheet because some copiers can be set to use the colour process – with the higher colour charges – even if only producing a black and white image.