Boing Boing

Canon sued for disabling scanner and fax functions of all-in-one device when printer ink runs out

Woman headbutting photocopier. Photo: Shutterstock

The scammy business model around inkjet printers is well-known: sell the hardware cheap to snare customers into paying again and again for ink cartridges that cost more by volume than champagne. But that's not enough for Canon, which now disables all-in-one devices entirely when the ink runs low, shutting down unrelated imaging fuctions such as scanners and fax machines until the cartridges—$70 or more a set— are replaced. The company is now being sued by a customer sick of being screwed over.

the class action lawsuit states that consumers had been deceived into buying a product that was designed to artificially and unethically introduce functional bottlenecks by tying them to ink levels, even if there's no practical link between them.

"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," reads the class action complaint against Canon USA.

"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."

According to the lawsuit, Canon is only doing this to increase its profits by selling replacement ink cartridges, hence the accusations for unjust enrichment.

Another Canon trick mentioned in the story: you have to have (and use) all the colors even if you're just printing black. Canon devices apparently print greyscale using mixes of the colors, not just the black ink. But that too was a choice with the obvious result of preventing people from getting by with the one $25 black tank even for plain text documents.