5 Things that will put you Back “In Charge”!
I have spent most of my professional career dealing with contracts of all kinds. 12 years on the Procurement & Supply Chain side; negotiating Terms and Conditions of all types, and now 20 years consulting and selling Office Technology and Services. I have seen more fine print than I care to, and probably why my eyes don’t work like they used to. The harsh reality is that these contracts are written to protect those who have the most to lose financially. If you are on the side of the desk that is obtaining the goods and services over a period, you really must know that you must play by their rules. Many contracts can be viewed as fair, but again, you need to follow the fine print and abide by those terms and conditions. Some things are negotiable, and some things aren’t. But the point in this is to just simplify what it takes to make sure you are in control when the contract ends and not the other way around. So here goes.
- Do you have an executed copy of your contract? If not, get a copy today! Don’t wait. Everything else I uncover will be found in that contract and if you don’t have a hard copy or electronic copy of that document, you can’t start to take back the wheel until you do. Most companies allow access via a customer portal for customers to obtain copies of their contracts. If you don’t have access to that, reach out and ask for it by email. If you don’t get a response, send it again and then call someone. Don’t give up until you have a copy in your possession.
- Know your Termination Date! Now that you have a copy, look for the executed date (the date that it was countersigned by the financial entity). That date plus the term should produce the termination or end date of the contract. If in doubt, simply ask. Knowing the termination or end date leads to the next important fact to know.
- What is the Renewal Clause (aka Gotcha Clause)? This is mostly buried in the fine print but will read something like this; “The term will be extended automatically for successive 12-month terms unless you send us written notice between ninety (90) and one hundred twenty (120) days before the end of any term of your intent to return the Equipment AND complete the purchase or return within 30 days of the end of term.” So, it’s your responsibility to notify them in writing of your ’INTENT’. If you do that, you stay in the driver’s seat on what your options are. If you fail to submit the Letter of Intent (LOI), you are locked in for another 12 months, Gotcha!
- What is the Escalation Clause? It’s there but rarely discussed upfront. So, you finally get a copy of your current vendor’s contract and the amount that was signed 3, 4, or 5 years ago is much lower than what they are currently invoicing you. That usually goes back to the escalation clause. Again, hidden in the fine print, the escalation amount or ‘cost adjustment’ can be anywhere from 5% to 10%. It can be tied to the entire payment or only to the service portion of the payment. Either way, you should always question this if not clearly defined. This usually can be negotiated with your current or future vendor.
- Additional Fees? This is another area that usually is not discussed with you in the beginning, and you find out the hard way, it shows up on your bill. Some of these can be negotiated, but some obviously can’t. Here are some examples.
- Documentation Fee
- UCC Filing Fee
- Sales Tax
- Property Tax
- Late Fees & Check Return Fees
- Equipment Return Fees
To close out, please know that we feel it’s always in the client’s best interest to review the contract with them and highlight those areas of concern. Ultimately, we want to garner a relationship founded on trust and integrity. Educating our clients in these areas is always a Best Practice and why we do our best to still do signings in person to review, educate and inform before the ink is ever placed on paper. For assistance in reviewing your current contract situation, please reach out to us at Texas Document Solutions for a free contract evaluation and road map to put you back in the driver’s seat! Texas Document Solutions – You’re in Charge!
By: Travis Fagg
Travis has 20 years of experience in the Office Technology and Document Solutions space. Before 2003, he worked in Procurement and Logistics Management for 12 years in Waco. He has been certified as a solutions consultant by Microsoft, Canon, HP, Sharp, and other solution partners.
He is the Branch Sales Manager for Texas Document Solution in Waco.