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Canon sued for $5 million for disabling scanner when printers run out of ink

A hot potato: Canon, best known for manufacturing camera equipment and printers for business and home users, is being sued for not allowing customers to use the scan or fax functions in multi-function devices if the ink runs out on numerous printer models. David Leacraft filed a class action lawsuit against Canon USA, alleging the company engaged in deceptive marketing and unjust enrichment practices.

Leacraft decided to file the lawsuit upon discovering a Pixma MG2522 printer he purchased, advertised as an “all-in-one” machine, would not function as a scanner when ink cartridges are either low or empty. Moreover, faxing capabilities would not work when certain printers ran out of ink as well.

Of course, ink is not required to perform scanning or faxing documents, so the complaint stresses these features should function regardless of ink levels. As such, the lawsuit, which involves more than 100 class members, seeks at least $5,000,000 in awards.

One of the alleged violations in the complaint includes unjust enrichment; the lawsuit states that Canon has disabled these functions to increase profits by selling replacement ink cartridges.

Other alleged violations listed in the complaint are New York General Business Law § 349 and 350, Canon breaching its express warranties, and failure to disclose material information.

“As opposed to the “single function” printers it sells, Canon calls these multifunction devices a “3-in-1” or “4-in-1” for the fact they purportedly provide three or four functions. In truth, the All-in-One Printers do not scan or fax documents when the devices have low or empty ink cartridges (the “Design Issue”), and Canon’s advertising claims are false, misleading, and reasonably likely to deceive the public.

Canon does not represent or warn consumers that ink is a necessary component in order to scan or fax documents. As a result, consumers are forced to incur unexpected and unnecessary burden and expense in the form of ink purchases or in the alternative be unable to scan or fax documents using the so-called all-in-one device.

There is no reason or technical basis for manufacturing the All-in-One Printers with an ink level detection function that causes the scanner to stop functioning when ink is low or empty. Canon designed the All-in-One Printers in such a way to require consumers to maintain ink in their devices regardless of whether they intend to print. The result is an increase in ink sales from which Canon obtains significant profits.”

To further strengthen its case, the complaint also contains evidence pertaining to how inkjet printers are being sold at or below cost, with companies expecting to generate profits via sales of ink cartridges.

“Charles LeCompte, head of Lyra Research, a market research firm in Newton, Massachusetts stated, “[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.”

According to a 2018 Consumer Reports article, inkjet printers are being sold at a low cost, with the expectation that companies would make their profit through sales of the ink cartridges needed for the functioning of the machines. “Most printers are sold at a loss. A manufacturer makes money NOT by selling consumers an inkjet or laser printer, but by selling the supplies needed to print.”

As discovered by BleepingComputer, the problems have been reported since at least 2016. Support agents responded by stating that ink cartridges have to be installed in the machine, and must contain ink in order to utilize all of the printer’s features.

“The PIXMA MX710 must have all ink tanks installed and they all must contain ink. If you attempt to print with no ink or an empty ink, you would risk damaging the printer,” a support agent said on the Canon forum. This specific response was included as a piece of evidence in the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, the all-in-one printers affected include more than 20 models discovered thus far. The class action lawsuit was filed on Tuesday and is awaiting approval from the court.



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