Several newsagents have sent me the Preferred Agent Terms and Conditions for Hubbed for comment. It appears to be their contract. In each case they asked me to look at the contract because of concerns about what happened years ago with the ANF endorsed and promoted Bill Express.
While I have business questions about the Hubbed offer are questions I have about the contract:
- Hubbed Competitor. The definition in the contract is broad and could change over time as Hubbed changes. Today, Touch Networks, N-Parcel, Parcel Point and even facilities in some newsagency software products could be considered competitors of Hubbed.
- Territory. The newsagent is restricted as to where they can offer the service. Hubbed has no restrictions on who they can sign to offer the service.
- Equipment. Newsagents must obtain the equipment Hubbed requires from Hubbed and this must be financed by a finance company approved by Hubbed.
- Financial Services. Newsagents taking on Hubbed are directed to use Moneytech Services to be able to use Hubbed. The finance agreement appears to be separate to the Hubbed agreement. I have not been given a copy of a finance agreement. If I remember correctly this was the case with Bill Express too.
- Sales target. Newsagents need to understand their target and the implications.
- Insurance. Newsagents neet to take out insurance for parcels and equipment.
- Responsibilities of the agent. Newsagents have to erect signs if required by Hubbed – there does not appear to be an opportunity to negotiate on this. The price you charge is set by Hubbed and you cannot vary it. You must get written approval from Hubbed to sell, promote or accept business from any competitor service. You have to notify the sale of your business 60 days in advance. You have to give 60 days notice if you plan to move your shop.
- Access. You have to notify your landlord that you’re taking on Hubbed.
- Fees. Hubbed may set off amounts payable.
- Access – termination. Newsagents agree that Hubbed can enter the premises without notice and remove equipment.
- Money. Hubbed and their agents get access to your bank account and you must authorise their direct withdrawal.
- Subcontracting. You authorise Hubbed subcontractors to have the same rights as Hubbed. You can’t subcontract your own writes without written permission from Hubbed.
- Termination. While Hubbed or the agent can terminate the agreement at 90 days notice this would need to be considered in association with the finance agreement. Termination fees apply and they are in schedule 5 – none of the agreement I have been given have a schedule 5.
- Financial guarantee. Part of the Hubbed agreement requires newsagents to provide a financial guarantee to the Hubbed Financial Partner.
- XchangeIT. In Schedule 4 newsagents are required to use something called the XchangeIT inventory management and payment system. Is this a new service or a mis-naming of XchangeIT?
While I am no expert, it seems to me that newsagents signing up for Hubbed will need to seek written permission to continue to offer Touch or ePay products as well as to offer Parcel Point or N Parcel. I would also be concerned about the future business opportunities that Hubbed may deny me from taking on given the tight no compete obligations in the contract.
More complete assessment of the Hubbed offer can only be undertaken in-conjunction with reading the finance agreement which I have not seen nor have newsagents I have spoken with.
It is not my intention to attack Hubbed. Rather, I have sought to document the concerns I would have with the Preferred Agent Terms and Conditions for Hubbed if they were presented to me for consideration. I’d like to think the ANF has read the contract with the same intent as me.
Hubbed may have answers that satisfy newsagents on these and other points. As with any contract newsagents are presented to sign, read it all carefully and ask questions about anything which concerns you or you do not understand. Get the answers in writing.