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Guide to Maintenance or Service Contracts

Maintenance agreements, service contracts and extended warranties.

Service contracts or maintenance contracts are an integral part of the photocopier and printer industry. They are important to the supplier because they provide a regular income that is essential to maintain their service departments. Extended warranties mainly apply to some desktop machines and printers, usually the low budget machines where a service contract is not really cost effective.

Service or maintenance contracts usually consist of a standing charge with an additional charge per printed page, billed on a monthly basis. Sometimes a set number of free pages will be included in the monthly charge, but there are variations on this format depending on the particular supplier and type of equipment involved. Some may have no standing charge, others may have no free pages and some may provide limited supplies or service. Overall you will have to find out what is included in your contract as they are all different. To give a basic out-line of the important factors that might be included in a typical contract, see the example below.

Example of importanat details in a typical service contract.

A standing monthly charge to include 500 A4 pages will be billed at £15.00 + vat per month.

All additional pages over the set monthly limit will be charged at 1p + vat per A4 page, and 2p + vat per A3 page.

This will cover all toner, maintenance, parts and labour.
All service calls will have a response time of 4 working hours from the time the call was placed. Our service departments working hours are 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Fridays and do not include weekends and bank holidays.

Please note that the company's terms and conditions will also be included.

How your monthly total is calculated.

Most companies will then contact you on a monthly basis and ask you to read a counter or meter that will be present on your photocopier or printer. From this reading they will work out how many pages to bill you for. Please note that an A3 page is twice the size of an A4 page and so is billed accordingly.

Is a maintenance contract worthwhile?

Service contracts on the whole are a good thing, as any machine with a mid to high volume output needs regular maintenance, performed by a trained technician at regular intervals. Trying to run it on a pay as you go basis will not be cost effective compared to a service contract in the long run. They also provide peace of mind for expensive and critical machinery, minimising down time and keeping your machine running at its best with regular maintenance.

When you may not need a service contract

There are circumstances where it may not be as cost effective to run a service contract. Some low volume machines (that is machines that only do a fraction of what they are capable of in a month) may be able to run on a pay as you go basis. Copiers and printers that may be needed for their features rather than their potential print volumes may be in this category e.g A3 is needed, duplex or simply for convenience. In these circumstances pay as you go can be cheaper and free you from a monthly out-going. In fact modern digital equipment is very stable, and maintenance intervals may dictate that you only require a service once every 2 or 3 years. Some particular photocopiers and printers can be very easy to set-up and run your self, and will require little outside support when used in low volume environments. Obviously you will have to buy your own toner and pay for the odd service call from an engineer, but in general this will still work out much cheaper than a service contract.

A4 desktop machines generally do not require a service contract. However some may feel that it is desirable and convenient, which is quite common and perfectly acceptable if it suits your needs. Extended warranties are usually more common if you require peace of mind and usually only requires a one off payment instead of an on going cost.

Points, considerations and questions for service or maintenance contracts.

1. Find out what charges are involved?

2. Find out how many pages the machine is designed to produce a month (please note that monthly maximums stated in most brochures and specs are the maximum that can be achieved on an occasional month, and not on a regular basis. A regular monthly figure will be approximately a third to a half of the maximum.)?

3. Find out the price of toner, and what the call out charges are for an engineer on a pay as you go basis.

4. You do not have to have a service contract; you can pay as you go.

5. Low volume equipment may be cheaper to run on a pay as you go basis.

6. Service contracts are essential if you will be doing a reasonable amount of output (for the type and size of machine) or have critical use for the equipment.

7. The running costs (toner and servicing) over the life of a machine is singularly the most expensive part, and can be many times the initial purchase price, especially for cheaper equipment.

To sum up

There are many service options depending on your needs and circumstances, and in the end only you can decide which is the best option. There are no right and wrongs only what suits. The main advice is to ask about what options are available to you as there maybe more than you think.

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