News Limited has just purchased a multi-million dollar circulation software package that is giving The Age enormous problems and angering newsagents across Victoria.

Late last month, News Limited signed a deal to purchase the circulation software known as DTI. But the same system has been blamed for a series of faults at The Age, which is the first Fairfax newspaper to use it.

The problems — which include complaints about inaccurate supplies, poor service and deliveries stopping for no apparent reason — have become so numerous that The Age’s circulation and newspaper sales director, Liz Earl, met with newsagents from across Melbourne on Tuesday to discuss the problems.

The meeting, at the offices of the Victorian Association for Newsagents, agreed to set up a consolidated complaints site to gauge the number and types of concerns. Currently it can’t quantify the problem because complaints are sent either to VANA or the Australian Newsagents Federation or directly to The Age.

One person who attended the meeting said Ms Earl conceded that Fairfax is having problems with DTI because it is difficult to adapt the off-the-shelf US software package for Australian conditions. The newsagent said he expected there would be lots of complaints from newsagents but accepted that The Age is working hard to try and fix the problem. Another newsagent said he would be “very surprised if any newsagent is in a situation where they haven’t noticed these problems”.

Another newsagent said his colleagues are frustrated by the system because it requires them to constantly check how many papers they are being sent by The Age. They can’t set a default number that matches their actual sales and are regularly sent either more or less, depending on how many Fairfax wants them to have. He says this is particularly annoying because newsagents now have to pay for excess copies to be returned to Fairfax.

The problems with the software have been exacerbated by recent sackings at Fairfax. As many as 20 people have left the circulation department. The paper now has fewer representatives to talk to newsagents and less people dealing with the influx of complaints from unhappy subscribers. This is having a significant effect on circulations figures at a time when the paper is desperately attempting to halt a decline in sales.

A Sydney-based representative of Digital Technology International, who declined to give his name to Crikey yesterday, said he was unaware of the issues at The Age . He said that DTI expects the same software will be used by Fairfax in Sydney in the near future.

According to the company, the DTI circulation software “manages newspaper circulation, distribution, marketing and reporting” and “cost-effectively improves every aspect of circulation and distribution — from how subscriptions are processed, managed and renewed — to how products are marketed, billed and delivered.”

It is not known how much due diligence News Limited conducted before it purchased the DTI software but under the deal it will roll it out to all 11 Australian newspaper divisions, affecting about 12 million newspaper sales a week.

The Age’s Liz Earl did not return Crikey’s calls.