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New Rules of Engagement —Morgan

April 2007
FOR DECADES, the printing industry’s “Terms and Conditions for Sale” was a keystone in helping printing companies and their customers work together. Created by the major printer associations, the “Terms and Conditions for Sale” document sought to establish acceptable standards of doing business between printers and their customers.

This document was created to establish “rules” to minimize the number of conflicts between printers and their customers, and diminish a printer’s financial liability when a job went awry. These standards were set up by parties that represent printers so, understandably, those terms and conditions were fashioned to primarily protect printers.

Over the past several years, print buyers have been blatantly disregarding printers’ Terms and Conditions for Sale. Eager to find the source of the resistance, I polled more than 100 top buyers from my 11,000 member e-community, Print Buyers Online.com. We asked the following questions.

First: “Do you read the Terms and Conditions of Sale for each of your print suppliers?” Interestingly, 27 percent of respondents said that they never read these documents, and 46 percent rarely read them. (“I thought the Terms and Conditions of Sale contract was a standard agreement—not customized by each printer.”) In addition, 11 percent responded that they weren’t even aware that printers have such a contract.

One print production exec from a well-known financial institution said: “I haven’t read printers’ terms and conditions for some time. [We] created our own terms and conditions that go on every purchase order. Executing the purchase order is linked to the acceptance of all of our corporate terms. This protects my company from liability.”

Irrelevant, Outdated

Next, we asked: “How relevant are printers’ Terms and Conditions for Sale documents?” In response, 43 percent said, “It’s irrelevant and outdated. We establish our own terms with our print suppliers.” And 35 percent indicated, “It’s somewhat relevant. It’s a guide, but I don’t expect to be held to all those rules.” Only 20 percent of the respondents found printers’ Terms and Conditions for Sale very relevant and use this to know their responsibilities and rights.

An ad agency production manager elaborated: “I know these are intended to protect the printer and should be given a cursory glance. Ultimately, actions, not legal fine print, will dictate with whom I do business. If a printer wants to nitpick, he/she risks not getting future business. Is there potential for a big financial risk on a large job? Sure. But I would only be placing such jobs with businesses I’ve already determined will stand behind their work, not their lawyers.”
 

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