UK companies are considering dumping exploitative IT services companies attempting to cash in on Year 2000 vulnerability by charging extortionate millennium rates.
A survey of 100 large companies by Benchmark Research found that nearly a quarter of them are thinking twice about maintaining relations with their supplier once the millennium weekend is over because of the outrageous charges.
Some 40 per cent of companies are expecting to pay twice as much as the usual millennium rate and one in 10 is anticipating paying up to four times as much as usual.
Not surprisingly a quarter of the companies feel they are being ripped off.
Julian, an IT director of a marketing company with 130 employees, ditched his IT supplier, which he would not name, after it wanted to charge "frightening amounts" for millennium cover.
Julian said: "It was a huge shock. I needed a stiff drink and a long cigarette. They wanted £10,000 for a 10 hour duration just to be on call. My favourite was £3,200 for replacing a Compaq board. The normal price is about a quarter of that," he added.
Julian said he was taken aback because his company had had a relationship with the supplier for two and a half years: "Fortunately I could bale out as we had a three months maintenance contract, but some companies are stuck with their supplier for a year."
"The cowboys have moved out of plumbing and into computing," he added.
John Higgins, director of the CSSA said service companies that behave in such an opportunistic way will suffer: "Key to a business's success is its relationship with its customer."
He said that companies should have a, "business continuity plan in place, which covered millennium rates," but if they feel exploited they should complain to the CSSA.
"We can investigate and expel them," he said. "Often the chief executive does not know what is going on. We have so far always been able to resolve a problem without expelling a company from membership."
IT service provider Delphis Consulting, which commissioned the research, has decided to pay its staff competitive rates over the weekend but not to pass the cost on to the customer.
Bill Carey-Evans, managing director of Delphis Consulting, said: "We want to shoulder the cost because we have to balance that against wanting a good relationships with our customers...We hope other companies will follow our lead."
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