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Photocopier firm denies `clocking'

A GROUP of 10 businesses, including a firm of solicitors, a charity and the oldest firm of brokers at Lloyd's of London, is suing a photocopier company for fraudulent misrepresentation and breaches of contract in a case which comes to the High Court this week, writes John Willcock.

The businesses claim they suffered as a result of the actions of salesmen employed by A:Copy (UK) Plc, part of IKON Office Solutions, an American- owned giant that rents out more than 70,000 photocopiers in the UK alone.

The claimants accuse the salesmen of "clocking" photocopiers. They say they registered higher meter readings to make it look as if customers were using more copies than they had contracted for. That resulted in customers paying a one-off extra charge and meant some took out new contracts with higher minimum copy volumes than they needed. A:Copy strongly denies these claims.

Many of the claims of misconduct date back to a company called Southern Business Group, a former UK stock market listed company which was bought by IKON (formerly Alco Standard) in 1995.

The British businesses making the claims against A:Copy include Berkeley Seers Holdings, letting agents based in South-east London; WT Shipping, freight forwarders from Essex; Tyser Holdings, the oldest brokers in Lloyd's of London; Richard Freeman, solicitors of Chelsea; Multiprint Lythographics of South-east London; HW Walden, stationers of Battersea; and Chelsea Financial Services, of west London.

A charity, a clothing firm and a hotel group, which declined to be named, are also part of the claim.

A period of more than 60 days has been set aside for the trial at the High Court in the Strand, London, which comes to court on Thursday.