10 Red Flags to Look for in Your Printer Contract

Submitted by Josh McAden on Fri, 04/26/2024 - 10:53
A person about to sign contract with graphic overlay of a warning sign

Are you tired of getting caught off guard by hidden fees and unreasonable terms in your printer contract?

Imagine you are a small business owner looking to lease a printer for your office. You have just received a contract from a printer vendor. But, upon reviewing it, you feel overwhelmed by the technical jargon and fine print. You’re unsure what to look for and worry about missing important details. You also want to avoid getting scammed and end up agreeing to unfair terms. 

Many businesses find themselves in this exact scenario. The printing industry can be daunting for those who are unfamiliar with it.

But if you feel unsure about your contract, don’t sign it just yet! It’s best to take a step back and review it further. Not all contracts are created equally; some contain red flags that could signal a bad deal.

But what are these red flags, and how can you pick them out? We at STPT have been in the printing industry for nearly 40 years and want to share our knowledge with you. Our goal is to help you become a more informed consumer. We understand the importance of clear printer contracts that don't complicate your life.

In this blog, we’ll discuss ten red flags to look for in your printer contract, tips to determine a red flag, and the dangers of a bad contract. This knowledge will help you read that contract with confidence and decide if it’s a go or no-go.

Not sure if you should lease or purchase your next printer? Check out our blog on the pros and cons of both purchasing options.

10 Red Flags to Look for in Your Printer Contract

When venturing into the realm of printer contracts, vigilance is a must. Here are some red flags to keep an eye on:

1. Excessive Lease Terms

Be cautious if the contract imposes unnecessarily long lease terms. Long-term commitments may tie you down if your printing environment changes or if better technology arrives.

Say you sign a five-year lease for a printer, but a more efficient printer comes out two years later. You’re now stuck with older technology for the rest of your lease.

2. Hidden Costs

Watch out for hidden charges lurking beneath the surface. These fees could relate to maintenance, services, or penalties for exceeding usage limits.

For example, a leasing contract may have an obscure clause with hefty fines for surpassing a certain number of prints. Additionally, there may be a hidden monthly maintenance fee. 

These charges could add up and result in significant expenses throughout your lease.

Transparent pricing is your shield against these unexpected expenses. To learn about other unforeseen costs, check out our blog on ten hidden costs of owning or leasing a printer.

3. Automatic Renewal Clauses

Contracts with automatic renewal clauses can spring unwelcome surprises. These clauses can renew your contract for another year without your knowledge or only provide a narrow window of time to cancel. These can leave you stuck in a contract that no longer meets your needs. 

Ensure you can renegotiate or terminate before falling into this trap.

Read our blog on 4 options you have at the end of your printer lease so you can be better prepared and take action on time.  

4. Unreasonable Penalties for Early Termination

Watch out for contracts with exorbitant penalties for early termination. These penalties can equal several months' worth of payments, and it can be challenging to break free before the lease term expires.

If you need to end your contract early because your business needs have changed, you should not get charged with excessive fees. Read our blog on how to get out of a copier lease for more in-depth information.

Negotiate fair terms that are reasonable and practical for both parties. This is essential to avoid financial burdens.

5. Lack of Exit Strategy

Transitioning to a different printer solution can feel like going through a minefield without a clear exit strategy.

Suppose you decide to switch to a different printer vendor. In that case, your contract should provide a clear plan for returning the equipment and transitioning to the new vendor.

6. Limited or No Flexibility

Contracts lacking flexibility in upgrades, downgrades, or adjustments to printing volume can stifle your business's growth.

For example, let’s say your monthly print volume increase. Your contract should allow you to upgrade to a higher-volume printer without adding excessive fees.

Look for flexible contracts that allow for adjustments based on your business goals.

7. Unclear Ownership of Equipment

Ensure the contract explicitly outlines who owns the printer equipment.

When the lease ends, conflicts may arise if equipment ownership is unclear. These disputes can occur over who is responsible for returning or disposing of the equipment.

8. Absence of Security and Confidentiality Provisions

If your printer handles sensitive information, demand robust security measures to protect your data.

A contract lacking data encryption or access control provisions can expose your private data to unwanted access.

As Xerox vendors, we take printer security very seriously. If you’d like to learn about Xerox’s approach to printer security, check out our blog on the topic.

9. Complicated Terms and Conditions

Contracts with convoluted jargon can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. If the contract is hard to read and leaves you scratching your head, you may agree to terms not in your best interest.

Ensure that the terms and conditions are clear and easy to understand.

10. Lack of Regular Audits or Reviews

Contracts should include provisions for evaluating printer performance or service quality reviews. Without these periodic assessments, ongoing issues may continue without opportunities for improvement.

Tips to Determine a Red Flag

Identifying red flags in a contract requires a keen eye and attention to detail. Here's how to spot trouble before it traps you:

  • Read Between the Lines: Scrutinize every clause to uncover hidden fees, ambiguous terms, or unfavorable conditions.
  • Question Unrealistic Promises: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Challenge big promises and seek realistic guarantees.
  • Demand Transparency: Don't settle for vague pricing or undisclosed fees. Insist on transparent pricing and clear description of costs.
  • Seek Fairness: Ensure the contract protects the interests of all parties involved, avoiding one-sided terms that favor the service provider.
  • Clarify Specifics: Demand specificity in deliverables, timelines, and responsibilities to prevent misunderstandings.

Dangers of Not Seeing Red Flags

The repercussions of overlooking red flags in a printer contract can be dire. Here are some of the consequences:

  • Financial Loss: Hidden costs, unreasonable penalties, and unclear pricing structures can lead to unexpected financial burdens.
  • Poor Performance: Ignoring performance guarantees may result in subpar printing services, impacting productivity and quality.
  • Data Security Risks: Contracts without robust security measures may expose sensitive information to breaches, leading to legal and reputational consequences.
  • Disputes and Legal Issues: Ambiguous terms, inadequate support, and the absence of an exit strategy can fuel disputes and legal proceedings.
  • Inadequate Support: Contracts offering poor maintenance and support can result in downtime and disruptions to business operations.

Knowledge Is Your Greatest Protection

A printer contract should empower, not mislead. You can secure a fair and mutually beneficial agreement by heeding the red flags and navigating the contract landscape with caution. Remember, knowledge is your greatest strength when navigating the world of printer contacts.

However, understanding a printer contract is not the only thing you need to know before buying your next machine. Download our free copy of the Complete Guide to Purchasing or Leasing a Printer or Copier to learn more.