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Are printer companies tricking consumers into buying new ink? A class-action lawsuit claims “yes”

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

November 11, 2021    |     2-minute read (373 words)

Canon customer and New York resident David Leacraft has filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit against the tech product manufacturer in federal court, alleging Canon’s multipurpose printers won’t scan documents when the ink cartridges are low. Leacraft purchased a Canon Pixma MG2522 advertised as an all-in-one printer and found it would not function as a scanner or as a fax machine if its ink cartridges were low or empty, even though those functions don’t require ink.

Complaint filed

Leacraft’s suit claims that the company engages in deceptive marketing practices by deeming its multiuse printers as “3-in-1” or “4-in-1.” He also accuses Canon of improperly deriving revenue from consumers who have to buy ink to be able to scan documents. According to the complaint, more than 20 models of all-in-one printers are affected with the same issue.

Allegations

The complaint alleges these violations against Canon’s multiuse printers: 

  1. Unjust enrichment: The court filing states that Canon has disabled the device’s fax and scan functions to increase profits by selling replacement ink cartridges.

  2. Violations of New York General Business Law sections 349 and 350: Breaching of express warranties and failure to disclose material information.
Common industry practice?

A support agent on the Canon forum reportedly advised an aggrieved user that "when you attempt to print with no ink or an empty ink, you may risk damaging the printer. So, the ink cartridges have to be installed in the machine, and they all must contain ink in order to utilize all of the device features."  However, there is no technical requirement for manufacturing printers with an ink level detection function that causes the scanner to stop functioning when ink is low or empty. 

In his complaint, Leacraft included this statement from Lyra Research founder Charles LeCompte: “[t]he industry figured out years ago that once people buy a printer they are committed to it, so you can sell the printer at or below cost knowing they will buy the cartridges.”

A 2018 Consumer Reports article, which was also submitted with the complaint, says that inkjet printers are sold at a low cost as companies expect to generate profits through sales of the ink cartridges needed for the functioning of the machines.  

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