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The Price of Protection

A Closer Look at Extended Service Contracts

Part 2 of 4

By Thomas Franklin

It’s important to carefully study the fine print when assessing what’s provided in extended user service programs. If you’re buying your printer through a dealer, it’s important to ask what services the dealer provides directly and what the manufacturer is responsible for. It’s likely the dealer will be the first point of contact for initial service calls and for general troubleshooting, while major mechanical issues will be referred to the manufacturer.

There are two basic varieties of extended service. The more common version extends the free warranty protection you receive at the time of purchase for several years. The other version adds a variety of services not available within the free warranty.

The following includes a brief look at what some vendors’ plans have to offer.

Canon’s extended service plan is called CarePak and it beings when the one-year free warranty expires. Prices vary by model, but range between $1,250 for a one-year plan and $3,000 for two-years. CarePak users get free telephone support from 8:00 AM- 8:00 PM EST Monday through Friday, except holidays. If matters can’t be resolved over the phone, the CarePak allows for free on-site service or referral to an authorized service facility. It covers the same set of issues as the free warranty. Printhead repairs are not covered.

EFI/VUTEk overhauled its extended warranty protection and is now offering a three tiered Enhanced Service Plan (ESP). The company is also in the process of adding employees with the goal of having a field engineer within 100 miles of 82 percent of its customer base by the end of 2008 in North America, says Bart Kulesz, VP, customer support, EFI/VUTEk.

The new ESP offers three tiers of protection. The difference is response time. A Critical plan promises an eight-hour response, the Proactive plan promises 16 hours, and the Essential plan delivers a 24 hour response. Pricing is currently set on an annual basis at 15 percent, 12.5 percent, and ten percent of the printer’s list price for Critical, Proactive, and Essential plans, respectively. Purchasers qualify for a discount on pricing if they add additional years of coverage.

Epson offers a one- or two-year Preferred Plus warranty plan, which must be ordered during the first year of the free warranty period. The Preferred Plus plan extends the services offered under the free warranty for one or two additional years. Prices vary by model but start at $725 for a year to $2,695 for two-years for the company’s aqueous models. The plan includes on-site response with a one-business day turnaround time and exchange options if the device cannot be repaired.

HP Scitex products purchased directly from Hewlett-Packard are available with three tiers of extended service. The top tier—premium—includes remote and Web-based support, parts and labor, a 40 percent discount on printheads, a 40 percent discount on HP’s uptime kit, twice a year printer maintenance visits, an annual training session, and an annual visit from a color management specialist. The mid-tier—value—discounts labor at 30 percent and offers 30 percent discounts on printheads and the uptime kit. You’ll receive only one yearly printer maintenance visit and a 40 percent discount on a color management visit. The entry level—remote—tier provides discounts from ten to 20 percent on all the services offered in the premium level.

A one-year warranty on parts is offered through Mimaki USA, Inc., while the dealer provides a one-year warranty on labor. For UV products, Mimaki offers a parts and labor warranty directly. The warranty can be extended into one-, two-, and three-year increments for a maximum four years of coverage. Prices are typically between ten to 15 percent of list price with discounts available for longer contracts.

Mutoh just began to offer extended service for its wide format printers. Each model comes with 12 months on-site parts and labor. Prices vary, but discounts are available if a user purchases a contract within the first six months of owning the printer. The extended warranty offers the same benefits as the standard year warranty—a goal of 24 hour response time and a one printhead per year limit—Mutoh Spitfire products have a limitation of three printheads. Travel costs are included. Pricing discounts also kick-in as the length of the contract is extended. It is available in one-, two-, or three-year blocks.

Océ offers a standard and premium warranty, both for a year. A premium package includes support for up to two printheads. Both standard and premium warranties offer a one hour call back and on-site help which typically arrives between four and eight hours from when a service request is registered. After the warranty period, you can purchase a monthly maintenance contract with coverage for printheads or without. Prices vary by equipment.

Roland DGA’s Passport Program includes two-year standard warranty on select models plus a free year of an ISA or SGIA membership. Warranty extensions are available for a maximum of three years.

Xerox offers a fee-based full service maintenance contract for up to three years from the date of purchase. Plan prices vary by printer model and whether a RIP is included. Eco-solvent printer service plans, including a RIP, can cost $3,600 while mild-solvent pricing for a year with RIP support cost $4,320. They are paid on a monthly basis. The top tier of service offers around-the-clock phone support for 349 days a year plus a national engineering team that can be on-site within eight business hours. There are also options for a two- or four-hour personal dispatch response.

The key to choosing a printer is finding a device that works for you. The same is true when choosing a service plan for that printer. Most vendors now offer multiple levels in one service plan to give their customers a range of options. Next week read about one end user’s involvement with user service programs.

Apr2008, Digital Output

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Protecting Your Investment.

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