A photocopy hire firm has been advised to allow a postmaster to exit her contract without financial penalty, after her claim she had been missold an agreement was upheld by an investigator from the financial ombudsman service. 

Susan Edgar, of Guisborough Post Office in North Yorkshire, lodged a complaint in January after she began receiving bills of £80 per month from Ezeecopy.

The company, which rents photocopiers to post offices and shops, began working with Mrs Edgar last July. She understood her contract allowed her to operate a machine with profits split 50-50 with Ezeecopy, which provided the copier, paper and ink.

However, after Mrs Edgar began receiving large monthly bills, she was told she had been required to meet a minimum target of 43 black and white and six colour copies per day.  

“The salesman didn’t mention the minimum requirement once. I even told him the offer was too good to be true – it turns out it was,” she told RN, adding that when she tried to terminate her contract, she was ordered to pay a £3,000 fee, which has been subsequently reduced.

Upholding her complaint, investigator Simon Todd said it was likely Ezeecopy’s salesman did explain the key points of the agreement. However, he could not find any company instruction to its sales representatives to explain the copies per day required or the link to monthly cost. 

In a document seen by RN, Mr Todd also concluded that Ezeecopy’s terms were not clearly spelled out in the finance agreement Mrs Edgar signed. 

“I would expect a finance agreement to clearly set out how much the monthly charge would be. In this case, I can’t see that it displays clearly what Mrs Edgar would have been expected to pay each month,” Mr Todd said. 

An Ezeecopy spokesperson said:
Regarding a complaint made by Mrs Susan Edgar to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), firstly the complaint has not been reviewed by an Ombudsman and secondly Ezeecopy has not been ordered to do anything at this stage as this is a first opinion from an Investigator and most importantly at this stage it is not legally binding. 

Ms Edgar is merely at the initial assessment stages of her complaint with an Investigator who is reviewing the particulars of her claim so it is a little premature to be reporting a success at this stage as nothing has been finalised. The Investigator can change his opinion, the Ombudsman can overrule the Investigator, and nothing is legally binding until the Ombudsman makes a decision.

Categorically at no point has the Investigator given the opinion that Ezeecopy missold a contract to Mrs Edgar, he claims she did not understand it which she never raised to Ezeecopy or asked for further verification at the time of signing up.

The Investigator acknowledged that Ezeecopy's salesman explained the key points of the agreement to Mrs Edgar and the minimum requirement of copies is clearly stated in this document including the relevant contract clauses. The Investigator suggests the agreement is a bit different from other finance agreements he has seen before but did admit that there is a lot of detail contained in the contract about how the monthly amount would be calculated.

An Ombudsman will only be asked to review the complaint if it is not resolved during this assessment stage of the case. This service is considered as a mediation process and Ezeecopy is currently compiling further documentation to submit to the Investigator for Mrs Edgars complaint. 

Ezeecopy respect the FOS is a confidential process but can report that two other customers who also used this service had their complaint overruled by the Investigator and found for Ezeecopy, one investigator concluded that:

Having reviewed your finance agreement, I’m satisfied that you were required to fulfil a minimum term of 60 instalments within the agreement. As you requested to come out of the contractual agreement after three instalments, ezeecopy are entitled to raise its early termination charge.

And another Investigator also ruled in favour of Ezeecopy on the basis:

As explained in my assessment, I felt the terms it [Ezeecopy] relied on were reasonably explained in the hire agreement documentation.

I still think Ezeecopy’s outcome is a fair outcome in the circumstances, for the reasons I’ve explained.

Both the above cases had reached the end of the process with the Investigator when he reached this final opinionIn addition on the occasions the Ezeecopy contract has been tested in court it has been found to be fully compliant with all current legislation.

Ezeecopy are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and take this responsibility seriously by ensuring that all procedures and documentation including their Agreements are compliant with current Consumer Credit legislation. The Agreements are drawn up and reviewed by a reputable national law firm to ensure of their compliance.

With over 2000 pieces of equipment installed nationwide it is inevitable that unfortunately there will be some complaints made. Ezeecopy maintain that it is very rare and when complaints are received they are resolved quickly and amicably.