Some of the retailers who signed up for the supposedly free Point Four epos system (to be financed by sales of ads displayed on-screen in store) are coming to the end of their original five-year contract.

To date the screens still have not gone 'live', but sales and marketing director Paula Boden assures me that the deal still holds it's just the time frame that was wrong. And, with hindsight, she is not proclaiming any target dates.

I had two calls from retailers recently over the epos/media deal. Mohammad Javed, who runs Seven Days News in Sheffield, has only a few months left on his contract and he says he is absolutely certain that Point Four won't be giving him the £13K back that he has spent on the system.

I asked him what he planned to do about maintenance after the leasing arrangement with Bank of Scotland is paid off and he says that Patrick Boden (who founded Point Four) wrote to him a while back promising a few years of extra maintenance but he isn't interested. When I asked why not, the ironic answer was: "It never goes wrong."

In fact, Point Four says it will be offering a much cheaper maintenance contract to those retailers whose five years are up and Paula Boden claims that there are now 2,500 retailers with the system and the company is close to signing some big advertisers.

Jan and Shaun Key (Wellstead & Daly Store, Southampton) are three years into their contract, having spent £9K so far. They didn't have the screens put in because they were waiting for the ads to materialise and didn't think blank screens looked too good. Both Mohammad and Jan complained that they couldn't get through to anyone senior enough at Point Four to discuss this, and Jan says she is therefore interested in talking to other retailers on the subject, to determine whether there is any collective way out. Her number is 02392 780747.

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