IBM is to offer discounts of up to 25 per cent on hardware after AS/400 agents threatened to sell grey imports amid claims that independent brokers undercut pricing by sourcing tin from the US.
The company's flexibility on price was revealed after Steve Green, proprietor of u3 million company Cardinal Computers, said he regularly competed against and won accounts from Big Blue's top 10 agents.
End users, he said, typically paid between u10,000 and u20,000 less.
'We supply new and used equipment sourced from the US and forward-ordered.'
That brought fury from Justin Broadbent, MD of agent Computer Software.
'I don't believe it's true that third parties can undercut us because IBM will now move off the list price. Cardinal are nothing in this field.
He's got to buy AS/400s from someone and that person will have his wrists firmly slapped.'
Another source at an agent said most had considered grey importing in the past but that IBM would now drop prices by up to 25 per cent to protect its agents.
Green claimed that price-conscious users were suspicious of IBM and its agents, but Broadbent said this was a dangerous course. 'If they're buying grey imports there are no guarantees.'
Mary Kiernan, sales manager at agent Anglo Corporation, said: 'What I'd question is the kind of warranties you'd have and what the software licenses were.' She said that customers with small budgets and ambitious IT plans do look at cheap and cheerful options, but worldwide warranties were not transferable.
Bill Reed, advanced technology consultant at IBM UK, said: 'This has been going on since the product was launched. There is some broker activity around. We attempt to find out where the machines have come from.' He said that IBM fixed pricing centrally for its AS/400 machines but would give discounts where necessary. 'A lot of industries suffer from grey marketing. It's one of those things people can win or lose on depending on the current state of the dollar.'
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