Wooldridges, the State's biggest education supplier, and Corporate Express Australia are locked in a court battle over delivery delays which resulted in thousands of WA students starting school without ordered textbooks and stationery.
Wooldridges and its companies in other States are seeking more than $15 million in damages from Corporate Express, claiming they suffered severe losses because of the late delivery of education supplies in the crucial back-to-school period in January.
Corporate Express began hostilities by suing Wooldridges in the NSW Supreme Court over the non-payment of $3.6 million of invoices.
But Wooldridges, its parent company Education Works Australia and associate companies in other States countersued, claiming Corporate Express breached a May 2011 agreement by not meeting its supply obligations. Because of the delays, the group claims, it was unable to fill book lists and other supply orders from schools and teachers in time for the new school year.
With the back-to-school trade accounting for 65 per cent of annual revenue, Wooldridges said in its statement of claim that it suffered a "significant loss of profits".
It will argue that 25 per cent of deliveries ordered from Corporate Express never arrived, while some were six months late.
The financial impact was so severe, Education Works Australia says, that it had been forced to close some of its east coast operations.
The matter returns to court on August 3 for a directions hearing.
Education Works Australia declined to comment yesterday and Corporate Express did not return telephone calls.
Education Works Australia is the country's biggest educational supplier, mainly through Wooldridges, which was founded as a family business in WA in 1960.
Wooldridges Australia Pty Ltd, which services WA, South Australia and the Northern Territory, said in its statement of claim it placed about 250 orders with Corporate Express between October 17 and February 28.
The WA product was contracted for delivery within 24 hours, mainly to two rented pavilions at the Claremont Showgrounds where Wooldridges had hired about 140 staff to "bag" the products for delivery to schools and students.
It said delays by Corporate Express resulted in higher rental costs because it remained at the Showgrounds longer than expected to meet the backlog. It also incurred greater costs as, in some cases, it had to organise multiple deliveries to complete orders.
Because of the delays, "a number of those persons who placed orders with Wooldridges Australia in the last back-to-school period are likely to withdraw their custom from Wooldridges Australia", it said. DELIVERY DELAYS 250 The number of orders Wooldridges placed with Corporate Express between October 17 and February 28