Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Price Fixing What Is It Really About?!?!

Many new notaries call into 123notary with questions regarding what fees should be charged for their services.(it is is by far the number one question asked) They have no idea and are lost as to what to charge. They find it very confusing due to the many different services that are asked of us. This is a new business venture for them and they are searching for answers and certainly most want to be competitive but are also concerned that they will be paid fairly for the services that they will provide. I usually start by telling them that the first rule of thumb is to know what their state allows per signature per notarization as each state is different. Then there are the fees charged for our other services such as regular notarizations for the general public where travel is involved as well as jail visits, a loan signing which will include doc preparations, travel, mileage, and printing costs such as paper, ink, etc. These fees in MY experience range from as low as 25.00 to 300.00 and will depend on many factors. But having said that It seems that there are some of you that you feel that if we share prices then we are engaging and practicing in ‘price fixing’. I disagree. But first off what exactly is price fixing? I did a quick search on the internet and you can read what I found as examples on different sites below:

Price fixing is a practice in which the prices for goods and services are manipulated in a way which is designed to benefit specific companies or individuals. In a simple example of price fixing, two rival gas stations could meet and decide to offer their gas at the same price, creating an artificially high price for gasoline which consumers would be forced to pay through lack of choice. Usually, this practice is illegal, and in some nations, it comes with severe legal consequences.
“If two companies happen to sell competing products at the same price, it is only considered price fixing if collusion can be proved. In other words, if two supermarkets both sell packs of a dozen eggs at the same cost, this would not be illegal. If, however, someone could prove that the owners of the supermarkets held a secret meeting in which they decided to sell their eggs at the same price, it would be considered price fixing.

“Often, price fixing results in price gouging. In a free market where businesses adjust prices to meet supply and demand needs, prices can fluctuate a great deal, but they are generally considered fair. When people collude, they usually elevate prices significantly, creating a price discrimination situation in which prices rise well above a level which would be considered acceptable. Many people believe that this practice hurts the economy as a whole, which is one of the reasons it is frowned upon.”

Now none of us are banding together in a back alley or secret meeting place practicing collusion, price gouging, or anything of the sort. We all just want to paid what our services are worth. It is not unlike any plummer, dentist, maid, etc wanting to be paid a fair price for the services that they provide. And my take on it is just because we give each other a ball park or share personal pricing information does not mean that we are engaging in any thing illegal or involved in this ‘price fixing business’.

IMO, when we share information on fees we are providing examples, not recommendations. I have many ask what I charge personally for regular notary work and I freely let folks know that since I am in California and I charge a minimum of 50.00 for travel and 10.00 per signature per notarization (10.00 is the standard) and I limit myself to a 20 mile radius for this price. In fact many notaries in other parts of the US tell me that they can hardly get 20.00 for travel..let alone 50.00. When it comes to a loan signing there are many more factors for me to consider. I will want to know from the hiring party how many loans there are (in other words is it a refi with a second, piggyback or straight refi,etc), distance, fax backs required, etc and whether I will have to print or will they be overnighted to the borrowers and available at the signing location. All of this information will be key in determining what price I am going to charge. I never ever ask a company what they are willing to pay. This is my business and although much of what we provide is considered a community service I still need to know that I am going to recoup my costs and make a profit so that my family and I can eat.

So I think it would be fair to say that when we share fees with each other these are ment to be for informational purposes only. Every notary will have to access what their operating costs are and then determine a price that they can get in their area and in turn live with and of course they must stay competitive by knowing what others are charging in their area. This is no different than any other business .Don’t think for one second that other business of like kind don’t keep up with their competition.

In closing, for us as traveling notary publics…we should never really be accused of price fixing by sharing information. There are just way to many variables in what we do. Every area and situation will be different…but it never hurts to have a point of reference and then do your homework and map out a price point that you and your clients are comfortable with
Until next time….

'that notary gal'

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