The 4 Golden Rules for Choosing the Right Bottled Watercooler Contract

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Published: 05th February 2017
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Organising a bottled watercooler for your office is a relatively low cost investment so the fundamentals in ensuring you study the terms and conditions of the contract to differentiate between companies can seem somewhat futile.

But when the supplier frequently fails to deliver as reliably as they promised, or the prices are increased annually in excess of market comparisons, the contract that you signed can come back to haunt you.

You may find that the supplier has not contractually agreed to any specific level of service i.e. frequency of delivery. Another pitfall can arise that if you want to cancel: you can find yourself burdened with potential substantial termination fees that result in sticking with the ‘Devil You Know', to avoid the hassle of change.

So, the basic five rules that I would recommend in choosing the right Bottled Watercooler contract for your company are:

1) Ensure they are members of a reputable Trade Association. In the UK, it's the British Water Cooler Association (BWCA). Members have to pass a stringent annual audit to ensure that they adhere to the strict codes of conduct and quality practices demanded by the BWCA.

2) The company should commit to a delivery schedule i.e. weekly, fortnightly, or monthly within their contract terms. Beware contract wording such as "We will deliver on a regular basis", which gives no firm timescale commitment.

3) Don't be tempted by a company that states that they offer a 26 week sanitising (cleaning) schedule for the dispenser, rather than the standard 13 week schedule recommended by the BWCA. This may seems like a 50% cost saving, but you are also potentially compromising the hygiene of the machine. Look out for contracts that indicate "Zero" Watercooler rental, but provides a sanitising, maintenance and servicing arrangement for, say, £16.00 per month. Effectively, they are concealing the rental in this price and overcharging for the maintenance.

4) Lastly, and probably most importantly, look out for the dreaded ‘Rolling Contract'! This is normally in the small print that states that unless you cancel within 3 months of the renewal date, the contract automatically renews for another 12 months.

If you do have problems with your supplier and you want to cancel, you may be liable for substantial costs. For example, if your contract renewal date was 15 May and service or product quality issues forced you to want to cancel the contract on say, 15 March, you would have missed the termination deadline i.e. 15 February (3 months before renewal).

You may then be liable to pay watercooler rental for the whole 12 months up to the next 15 May, and pay for sanitising that would have taken place during this time. It can work out to be pretty expensive and enough to make you almost "put up and shut up" with your existing supplier. Therefore, look for more reasonable contracts that provide a minimum contract length i.e. from 3-12 months, with a 1 - 3 month termination clause at any time thereafter.

So in summary check on:

1. BWCA membership
2. Proper delivery agreement
3. Hygiene as a priority; avoid contract loopholes - if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
4. Check on the get-out clause.


Nick Swan has over 30 years' experience in the water supply industry and is Managing Director of Love Water Limited, a Surrey based Office and Home Water Dispenser Company specialising in the South East with UK-wide delivery.

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