Printer firms 'build in obsolescence'

25 September 2017

A campaign group has launched legal proceedings against printer manufacturers accusing them of building obsolescence into their products.

Halte à L’Obsolescence Programmêe (HOP), a legal group that campaigns against the practice of designing obsolescence into products, has accused HP, Canon, Brother and Epson of deliberately shortening the lifespan of their printers and cartridges.

The group claims this is the first legal action made against programmed obsolescence. 

HP said the complaint was a generalised statement about the industry and it was unclear what the allegations were against the firm.

Epson rejected the accusation that it plans for its products to fail after a certain time.

Cannon has not yet responded to requests for comment on the allegations. Brother could not immediately be contacted. 

The complaint was filed with the Procureur de la République de Nanterre, a public prosecutor in France. In the complaint HOP alleges that certain printer elements are designed to falsely indicate that they have reached the end of their lives and that some printers stop working because cartridges are flagged as empty when they still have ink left.

If proven, this would mean these printer manufacturers would be in violation of the Energy Transition Act 2015 (loi Transition énergétique de 2015), which legislates against manufacturers deliberately reducing the lifetime of a product to increase replacement rates. 

The offence is punishable by two years imprisonment and a fine of €300,000, which can be increased to 5% of a company's turnover.

HOP said if the prosecutor decides not to investigate, it plans to file a civil suit.

A spokesman for HP said: “The [HOP] complaint makes generalised statements about the printing industry and it is unclear what, if anything, is being alleged with respect to HP.

“We can state unequivocally that HP is constantly working on improving the sustainability and quality of its products.”

A spokeswoman for Epson said: “We place the highest possible emphasis on quality and concern for the environment...  We totally reject the assertion that our products are planned to fail after a certain period of time.”

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