from the sorry-I-can't-do-that,-Dave dept
For more than a decade now, computer printer manufacturers have been engaged in an endless quest called: “let’s be as annoying as humanly possible.” That quest, driven by a desire to monopolize and boost the sale of their own printer cartridges, has resulted in all manner of obnoxious DRM and other restrictions designed to make using cheaper, third-party printing cartridges a monumental headache. Often, software or firmware updates have been designed to intentionally grind printing to a halt if you try to use these alternative options.
Beyond that, there are other things printer manufacturers do that make even less sense if a happy customer is the end goal. Take for example Canon’s history of disabling the scanning and faxing functionality on some printer models if the printer itself runs out of ink. It’s a policy designed to speed up the rate at which users buy expensive cartridges (god forbid you go a few months just scanning things without adequate levels of magenta), but it’s exemplary of the outright hostility that plagues the sector.
And now Canon is facing a $5 million lawsuit (pdf) for its behavior. The lawsuit, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of New York (first spotted by Bleeping Computer) claims Canon fails to adequately disclose the restrictions to consumers:
“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. Canon knew, or should have known, that its representations and advertisements regarding the All-in-One Printers were false and misleading, and that they failed to disclose material information.”
There’s no technical reason for such restrictions as they pertain to scanning and faxing. But like most restrictions of this type, when consumers complain, they’re (falsely) informed it’s a product safety issue of some nebulous kind. See, for example, this Canon customer service response to one user who complained he could no longer scan when he ran out of ink (notice how he doesn’t answer the actual question and keeps the focus on printing):
“These precautions are in place to prevent damage to the printer from occurring if printing with no ink is attempted. The printer uses the ink to cool the printhead during the printing process. If no ink is present, the printhead could be damaged or the unit would require service.”
Again, being a misleading jackass to goose printer cartridge sales is not a cogent business strategy. And the fact this kind of stuff just keeps happening decade after decade showcases not only the ineffectiveness of class actions as a meaningful behavior shifting tool (of course binding arbitration has become arguably worse), but the overall fecklessness of U.S. regulators who generally lack the resources to properly police dodgy behavior at the scale it happens in the U.S.