Is it legal for a printer manufacturer to force us to use its ink?

That printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world is something we all know. Depending on the type of ink and its manufacturer, the price per liter of this “magical” product can exceed 3,000 euros per liter. An abusive amount that has caused the emergence of all kinds of alternatives to these cartridges, such as compatible models, recycled or ink loading kits with which to refill our cartridges.

However, the large volume of money that moves printer ink is causing companies in the sector to devote all their efforts to see how to maintain their monopoly within the supply of ink for their models, using it the necessary methods. An issue that leads us to ask to what extent the measures that companies are applying in this war are legal, as well as whether the alternatives that other companies offer us are also legal.

Companies and their traps

For a long time, the rumor has spread through the network that printers are manufacturing companies included in their equipment various elements that guaranteed that compatible cartridges did not work on their printers. Parts among which were the injectors inserted in the cartridges, or the specific chips with which they were equipped. If the printer did not find this chip in the cartridge, it merely did not print and sent an error message that, coincidentally, did not disappear until the cartridge was changed.

But the biggest scandal came in 2016. In this year, both HP and Epson released security updates for their printers that, in reality, all they served was to block the cartridges of other manufacturers. A practice as creepy as illegal that HP had to withdraw in just a couple of months for the criticism received. In the case of Epson, this resulted in a lawsuit that, to this day, is still in process.

What the law says

If you wonder if this practice is legal or not, we can firmly state that it is not. An opinion in which Rubén Sánchez, spokesman for the consumer association, FACUA agrees. In the words of Sánchez, “limiting the use of a printer to do it with the ink of its manufacturer would be as absurd as forcing a car to circulate with the tires of the brand that its builder decides”. Therefore, all measures aimed at preventing the legitimate right of the consumer to choose the tub supplier of their choice are illegal and contrary to the current laws in defense of competition, as well as consumers and users.

Specifically, European legislation expressly includes among its directives the prohibition of any producer, importer, or distributor of goods that can legally oblige the user to buy consumables, spare parts, and other components from an exclusive manufacturer as a condition for the sale of the equipment. That is, forcing the user to buy the ink from the printer manufacturer is an illegal practice and, as such, should be prohibited by those companies that are developing it. Such is the importance of this measure that it appears in the local consumption laws of all member states, after their corresponding transposition by each of them.

However, with this legislation in hand, it is surprising to see how actions such as those commented by Epson and HP have not yet been answered in the form of sanctions by the European authorities. However, knowing the negligence of this administration in what to ensure European consumers are referred to as well as in which to stop these illegal practices is assumed.

Something that not only affects this case but others, such as the famous guarantee of only one year that Apple has been giving in its products for a long time, although this guarantee must necessarily be two years. As proof, the first fines for applying programmed obsolescence in electronic products arrived in 2018, with micro fines of 10 and 5 million euros to Samsung and Apple, launched in this case by the Italian government.

Nespresso capsules, another similar case

The case of printer ink has not been the only one in which the companies that own the technology have dedicated themselves to making life impossible for their compatible competitors. The case of Nespresso capsules and their exclusive infusion system has been another in which there has also been a battle.

A case in which the bad arts of doubtful legality soon appeared. Among these practices, a system was included in the machines launched in 2013 that was responsible for rendering the capsules that were not part of the brand useless. These capsules fit correctly in the machine but, when the process ends, the result obtained in the glass was far from being a conventional coffee. As if this were not enough, some studies on different compatible capsules suggested that the models of certain manufacturers could break down the machines. Breakdowns for which the brand was not responsible so that the repair was borne by the user.

By the way, Nespresso not only dedicated itself to physically crushing the capsules of its rivals but also tried it in court. To do this, he enforced his patents to try to remove the rest of the coffee capsule manufacturers from the market. An inefficient process, given that the different failures qualified said demands for failures because they were not copies of the original technology but simple adaptations. The proof is that today there are more than 20 brands that dispute this market to the brand announced by Clooney.

Leave a Comment