Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
The Panorama programme Reading, Writing & Rip-offs aired on September 24 was not the exposé of the copier industry that many had expected/hoped for/feared (delete as appropriate). The programme did highlight some instances of massive overcharging for MFPs (a £1,512 model with a lease cost of £42,000 and a £10,995 MFP that ultimately cost £174,787), but the main focus was on IT equipment and the actions of a couple of companies.
One of the alleged practices was the offer of ‘free’ laptops and a promise to pay all lease payments. Once the supplier stopped making those payments, the school found that it was liable for the debt – and that the laptops had been leased for much more than they were worth. PrintIT has been told of a similar scheme where printers are offered ‘free’ with the promise that lease payments will be met from Government grants.
The programme raised a number of questions for both buyers and sellers of equipment and finance. For the former, it was a useful reminder a) that there are some highly unscrupulous people out there; and b) that in the right circumstances a determined sales person can be hard to resist, especially by someone who has little experience of the complexities of service and leasing agreements.
The Nationwide Association of Photocopier and Print Suppliers (NAPPS) said that the programme underlined the importance of creating a community of suppliers that consumers can trust. It hopes to do this by holding members to a code of practice and by providing a forum for complaints.
Welcome as this may be, you have to wonder how much protection such measures provide. Panorama also questioned the role of the banks that provided finance for the deals it investigated. As members of the Finance & Leasing Association they will have signed up to a Code of Practice stating that they “will trade fairly and responsibly with customers and will promote responsible trading between intermediaries and customers”. In the cases looked at by Panorama, this clearly didn’t happen.
Download this issue:
Buyers who fall for scams must take their share of the blame. Businesses don’t have the same protection as consumers or the luxury of a cooling off period, so it is essential to have procedures in place to prevent rogue procurement. Nor is there any shortage of independent advice available – some of it provided by the FLA and NAPPS, both of which are working with the National Association of School Business Managers to prevent further instances of misselling in the education sector.
The sad truth is that many who started watching Panorama thinking ‘There but for the Grace of God go I’ will have ended up screaming ‘How on earth could they have fallen for that!’.