Reseller pursues $1.6 million in damages from Panasonic

Reseller pursues $1.6 million in damages from Panasonic

A former Panasonic reseller is heading back to the Federal Court of Australia to pursue a $1.6 million statement of claim.

Managing director of Melbourne-based Advance E Pty Ltd, Ravi Weeramantry, alleges his company was unfairly dismissed as an authorised reseller.

The claim also alleges service and repair problems with Panasonic Office Automation products.

Initially filed in November 2002, the claim has gone through three arbitrations, and the Federal Court of Australia, Victorian Direct Registry.

The last arbitration was on April 29, according to Weeramantry. The next step, he said, was to head back to the Federal Court of Australia but a date had yet to be set.

Weeramantry’s main complaints centre around what he claimed was an abrupt dealer agreement termination; Panasonic’s alleged persistent delays in supplying products, consumables, accessories and parts; and the extra service costs associated with the defective performance of the Panasonic range of photocopiers.

Due to the premature termination of the dealership, and products not performing to specification, he said Advance E had suffered detrimental loss.

A chartered accountant — Tom Fitzgerald of Commercial Resolutions in Victoria — was appointed by Advance E to quantify the loss and damage suffered by the plaintiff due to the contract termination. Fitzgerald said the dealer was claiming for loss of hardware sales and ongoing service revenues as well as additional and wasted expenditure (including advertising and re-badging of the business). He suggested Advance E could also claim against the loss of goodwill resulting from the reduction to a one-dealership business.

On the contractual front, Weeramantry alleged the company was unfairly dismissed, despite assurances laid out in the dealer terms of agreement. In addition, Weeramantry claimed Panasonic was in breach of the terms of the dealer appointment, terminating without any default on the part of the applicant.

The company was given a termination letter in August 2002.

Panasonic issued a statement saying it was vigorously defending the proceedings commenced by Advance E.

On the service front, Weeramantry claims the photocopiers were either defective or did not perform according to specifications as set out in the Panasonic service manuals, on its websites and in technical bulletins.

As a result, Weeramantry alleges he suffered losses stemming from the additional, unplanned service costs. The loss was continuing, Weeramantry said, because he had ongoing service contracts with clients.

The relationship soured, he said, when Panasonic introduced its FP1670 range of copiers.

In addition to service woes, Weeramantry also claims Panasonic failed to reimburse Advance E or to issue credit notes for agreed authorised dealer’s discounts or various special trading term allowances amounting to more than $33,000.

Panasonic, meanwhile, has filed a cross-claim for $115,000 for goods delivered to but not paid for by Advance E, according to lawyers representing Panasonic.

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