Photocopier deals cost taxpayers 'thousands'

The close relationship between photocopier supply companies and local authorities may be costing taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds. The link is also raising serious questions about the effectiveness of public purchasing organisations set up to save public money by buying in bulk.

Encouraged by the Government, many local authorities have banded together to establish purchasing organisations to supply hospitals, schools and local government itself. However, some purchasing consortia do little to protect public institutions from the complex sales practices of photocopier salesmen.

There is also unease, not least within purchasing bodies themselves, about their practice of taking a rebate from companies supplying photocopying machines and other goods and services, which is often used to defray the purchasing organisation's costs. Some consortium members are asking whether clubbing together was a good idea since it has not resulted in great savings for the end user.

After commissioning research from Copywatch, a consultancy that advises companies on how to reduce their photocopying costs, the libraries organisation in a south Wales city discovered that it could save almost pounds 2,000 a year on the cost of running four photocopiers originally provided under a contract negotiated by the Gwent Supplies Consortium.

Purchasing organisations take a cut in two ways. One is to give the supplier a target price at which the machine will be sold on to the customer, according to one sixth-form college. The purchasing organisation buys the machine at a discount to the target price, sells the machine at the target price, and keeps the difference.

Since, however, this involves the purchasing organisation invoicing the final customer, the organisation often agrees instead that the photocopier supplier can sell the machine direct to the customer. The supplier then pays a "rebate" to the purchasing organisation.

These deals are reinforced by the close attention paid by photocopier suppliers such as Xerox, Canon, Danka and Ikon to local authorities. All have salesmen who target local government and strive to establish good relations with officials.

One result is that some purchasing organisations such as the Central Services Agency, which supplies the NHS in Scotland, select panels of a few authorised photocopier suppliers. Copywatch, which attempted to advise the Forth Valley Health Board on how to cut its photocopying costs, was blocked by the CSA from dealing with the health board.

David Carter, a Copywatch associate, ran into similar difficulties dealing with the Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation. He said: "I have nothing against the principle of consortia, but in practice there can be vested interests which do not always have the best interests of the client at heart."

Photocopiers can be a valuable source of income for public libraries. But Lawrence Tag, a former senior manager for Newcastle City Libraries, said the terms of the leasing contracts often preclude servicing machines on Saturdays - the day of heaviest use. Echoing complaints from other customers, he said salesmen often gave the impression machines were new when they were second-hand.

Jose Johnes, a retired company secretary, warned of another hidden cost. Three leasing companies whom she dealt with - Rentokil Business Finance, Pitney Bowes and Lloyds Bowmaker - wrote to her after deals had been finalised, saying they would include insurance as well as regular debits unless she proved she had insurance.

The premium was expressed as a monthly or quarterly rate, which was higher than the price offered by her company's insurer. "It would be more honest to ask you beforehand," she said.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup