Photocopier contract scammers get just desserts after leaving NHS surgery in financial chaos

I’m often asked if there’s any depth to which scammers won’t sink, any group of people who could consider themselves immune from opportunistic salespeople. The sad answer is no – these individuals don’t care who they hurt or what damage they do.

Even the NHS – which has more than enough to worry about, especially at this time of year – is viewed as a valid target. All of which makes it even sweeter when we can step in, rectify matters and put a smile back on people’s faces.

Contract demands put surgery in desperate financial mess

In January 2022, I wrote about a GP surgery that was ripped off after an attempt to save cash by switching its copier contract.

Staff were approached by a photocopier salesman who convinced the surgery they could get a better machine for less money – and he even said: “Don’t worry about your previous agreement, we’ll sort all that out.”

That original agreement was an ‘all inclusive’ managed print agreement which meant the surgery paid a higher-than-average charge for mono and colour copies and committed to a set number of copies each month, paying their bill quarterly.

The surgery received a settlement figure of £44,500 from the leasing company. The new supplier gave the surgery that amount to pay off the leasing company, assuring them that aside from a £500 admin fee for the original supplier, they owed nothing more.

Check what managed print contracts wrap into the terms

However, the terms of the managed print contract meant the quarterly payments to the supplier included servicing, repairs, toners, parts and other consumables, as well as the finance element. Unlike a standard lease agreement, managed print agreements have a built-in annual increase across the board.

Once the original supplier was aware of the payment to the lease company, they contacted the lease company. They ordered them to return the £44,500 to the customer, saying they were ‘unable to terminate the contract in that way’.

Then it got silly. The regional sales director for the original supplier became involved, and the settlement figure jumped from £44k to around £65k. Then it went up to £85k – almost double the original amount stated.

Surgery spared thousands in printer contract settlement

The surgery – absolutely snowed under by the pandemic and put under enormous pressure by the original supplier, who threatened court proceedings – had no time to argue. They continued paying £6,000 a quarter to the original supplier and an additional £4.5k a quarter to cover the new agreement, which had tied them in for at least five years.

They couldn’t afford it and, in absolute desperation, a staff member came to us in tears.

We negotiated a settlement with the original supplier for just over £53k – a significant reduction for the client. They’d already paid more than that, so we were able to claw back an £11,000 overpayment, plus a further £46,000 from older leases which the original supplier should have paid off 3 years previously, all in all a refund of £57,000 went back into the surgery bank account.

The staff member who orginallly called me in tears has since written to me. She said:

“Chas, from everyone at the surgery, we wanted to send you our heartfelt thanks.

“I am sure you are aware that I was completely broken by all this, and my trust was at an all-time low when I first spoke to you. You stepped up to the plate, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

‘Extraordinary dishonesty’ of managed print contract sale

“The extraordinary brazen dishonesty of the firms working in this area was a big shock for me. For anyone trapped in an unfair, exploitative contract, we would strongly and unequivocally recommend the use of your service for your knowledge of the area, trustworthiness, understanding and effectiveness in achieving a resolution.

“What a great man you are!” (Always nice to hear, but a shame it is always under such stressful circumstances.)

If you have been offered a new agreement to reduce your costs, whether for office equipment or something else, be sure you check and fully understand the small print or get a real and fully independent expert to look over the terms and conditions for you. That’s the only way you’ll get peace of mind that your bargain ‘deal’ really is a life time bargain after all.

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