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Should The ACCC Investigate PC Printer Companies?

Should The ACCC Investigate PC Printer Companies?

At Harvey Norman the Epson Expression Home XP-100 Printer is only $59 but an average family can expect to pay over $300 a year buying ink to feed the device which Epson claims packs the power for everything you would need.

And if you buy an Epson XP 200 there is no mention of the fact that your second set of ink cartridges are going to set you back $69.95 for a single cartridge that costs less than a dollar to manufacture.

In some cases a $13.95 ink cartridge only contains 4ml of ink. This is the equivalent of paying over $4,000 a litre for ink.

On top of this the PC printer Companies appear to engaging in restrictive practises by designing cartridges so that they cannot be filled with cheaper ink from suppliers other than the original PC manufacturer. This is akin to Ford or General Motors designing cars to only take their components or tyres.

At Officeworks HP 82 cartridges are being sold at $61.86 or $247 for a set of four, that include Cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

On top of the exorbitant cost for printer cartridges, printer Companies like HP, Epson, Brother and Canon have cut back on the amount of ink in a printer cartridge in recent years.

An investigation by the UK Daily Mail recently revealed that the Epson’s T0322 cartridge, released in 2002, contained 16ml of ink. The TO89, which came out six years later, has 3.5ml of ink.

And when you talk to anyone in the printer ink industry they insist their prices are reasonable.

A cartridge isn’t just a plastic box with ink, they say, it’s a sophisticated device that sprays the ink on to paper and cleans itself.

They even tell you that you can damage your printer if you use replaceable ink from anyone but the original manufacturer a move that Choice executives claim should be investigated.

In Australia printer manufacturers are going out of their way to make it difficult to reuse their cartridges. Modern cartridges have electronic chips inside them, which stop the printer working when the ink is running out.

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Once the chip has decided the cartridge is empty, the cartridge is useless — and the chip has to be replaced before the cartridge can be used again.

Printer Companies like Epson HP, Brother and Canon are going out of their way to make sure that, if recycling companies replace the chips, their printers will either refuse to work, declaring that the cartridge must be a counterfeit, or flash up signs on the computer, warning that the ink cartridge could cause irreparable damage.

Manufacturers say this is a sensible measure to stop piracy. But recyclers say that it restricts competition a move that has not gone unnoticed by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission who told SmartHouse that the move could constitute restrictive trading.

David Connett, editor of The Recycler magazine likens the practises of the printer Companies to buying a new car and when you were low on fuel you weren’t allowed to stop at a BP or Caltex garage because your manufacturer insists you can only use Shell. You would be furious. Yet that’s what is happening with printers and ink he claims.

The manufacturers insist there is no rip-off. A spokesman for Canon said, bafflingly, that reducing the amount of ink in cartridges did not mean they were worse value for money.

Chris Brooks, of the Cartridge Remanufacturers Association — the trade body for the refurbishing industry — says the amount of ink in cartridges has fallen in the past decade, even though they look the same size.

The Daily Mail revealed that in 2004, HP’s best-selling cartridge, the HP45, had 42ml of ink and cost $29. It could print, according to HP’s website, 930 pages. Today, the same company’s best-selling HP300 has just 5ml and sells for $19.95. It manages only 200 pages.
 ‘The way the consumer is being treated is a massive rip-off,’ claims Brooks.

‘Most cartridges cost the major companies less than $0.70cents to manufacture and they are selling them for exorbitant amounts of money.’

 ‘The way the consumer is being treated is a massive rip-off” said Mr Brooks.


An HP spokesman agreed, claiming the company put less ink in their cartridges ‘due to the increased efficiency and reduced size of our printers’. He added: ‘This doesn’t mean less value or increased cost to our customers.’
An HP spokesman claimed less ink is in their cartridges due to better ‘efficiency and reduced size’ of printers.

Epson questioned the quality of some non-branded cartridges and warned that they could reduce the life of a printer. And it too insisted it had cut the amount of ink in its  cartridges because they were now more efficient.