August 11, 2023
In a significant legal setback for HP (Hewlett-Packard), a class action lawsuit targeting the company’s “all-in-one” printers has successfully overcome a motion to dismiss. The case centres on allegations that these printers turn off scanning and faxing functions when ink levels are low, even though such functions do not inherently require ink. This ruling challenges HP’s defence strategy and raises broader questions about consumer rights and corporate accountability.
The plaintiffs, who filed the lawsuit, claim that HP’s printers contain a deliberate design flaw that forces users to purchase more ink cartridges than necessary. They argue that HP’s failure to disclose this limitation misleads consumers, ultimately driving up profits from ink cartridge sales. With printer ink costing anything up to €1,800 ($2,300) per litre, the financial burden on consumers is substantial, potentially overshadowing the prices of luxury goods like silver, caviar, and champagne.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Freeman’s decision to allow the case to proceed underscores the validity of the plaintiffs’ claims. Judge Freeman acknowledged that the allegations in the amended complaint sufficiently outlined the defect’s cause and impact on printer performance. The judge only dismissed one claim under Minnesota’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act while upholding claims related to fraudulent omission, false claims, and unfair competition.
The lawsuit, originally filed in June 2022, initially faced dismissal due to a lack of clarity regarding the design flaw’s cause. However, an amended complaint provided a more comprehensive argument, referencing an HP message board post wherein a customer reported a printer malfunction due to a damaged ink cartridge. The plaintiffs argued that this defect was intentional and aimed at maximizing ink cartridge sales.
This ruling puts HP on the defensive, drawing attention to the tech giant’s previous legal disputes over printer-related matters.
In December 2020, the Italian Competition and Market Authority imposed a €10 million penalty on HP for deceptive and aggressive practices. The authority found that HP introduced inkjet and laser printer limitations, requiring authentication for non-original cartridges through firmware.
In September 2022, HP agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with Euroconsumers, a group of consumer organizations in Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The settlement follows a May 2021 claim made by Euroconsumers. The settlement compensates consumers in those countries who faced issues with HP printers’ compatibility with third-party cartridges.
In February this year, HP settled a 2021 complaint filed by Radek Barnert and others regarding their instant ink program. The complaint highlighted delayed replacement cartridges and cartridges becoming non-functional upon subscription cancellation.
Our take on this: At one time the mantra was “all hail the great HP.” Those days are long gone and as this class action lawsuit progresses, HP’s reputation faces renewed scrutiny in the tech sector. This case taps into broader conversations surrounding consumer rights, transparency, and fair competition in an ever-evolving technological landscape. HP’s ability to address these legal challenges will not only impact its financial standing but could also shape the future practices of corporations in the tech sector.
Categories : World Focus