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HP Inc faces firmware class action

October 11, 2016

hplogonewUS law firm Girard Gibbs has taken up a case against the OEM over the recent firmware update.

The Recycler first reported on the firmware update last month, and reported further complaints from the industry and consumers, with the OEM’s EU helpdesk claiming that it was “working on a solution” soon after. The OEM told The Recycler in response that the printers affected “will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an Original HP security chip”, but later apologised and announced an update to reverse the firmware change.

The Recorder reported on the beginning of the case in San Jose at the federal court, with the case started on 7 October and “alleging that a software update the company installed in customers’ internet-connected printers last month disabled machines loaded with ink cartridges made by competing companies”, and reported these cartridges were “’damaged or missing’”.

The firm alleges in turn that the OEM “intentionally sabotaged customer printers”, and Girard Gibbs’ Daniel Girard wrote in the complaint that the cartridges concerned were “neither damaged, missing, nor out of ink. HP installed the disabling software update as a means of gaining an advantage over its competition in the market for printer ink cartridges”.

It went on to claim that “while HP generates little-or-no profit from the sale of printers themselves”, the inkjet cartridges are worth $13 (€11.69) to $75 (€67.45) “per ounce”, or $1,644 (€1,478) to $9,600 (€8,634) “per gallon”. The OEM didn’t “immediately respond” to requests for comment on the case, and The Recorder points out that the proposed class action “asserts unjust enrichment claims against HP as well as claims that the company violated California’s Unfair Competition Law”.

The suit is seeking “restitution for customers and an injunction”, which would require the OEM to “reverse its unfair and unlawful disablement” of the printers and would seek to bar it from “making similar moves in the future”. The firm’s Jordan Elias added that the OEM’s user warranty “contemplates – and indeed allows – customers to use non-HP ink cartridges and maintain warranty coverage”, adding that “it’s no secret that HP is under pressure to boost profits, but electronically disabling printers to prevent people from using competing cartridges is no way to do it”.

The action follows another similar case begun at the end of September, with fellow US firm Heninger Garrison Davis LLC filing a lawsuit “alleging that HP printers had a preset failure date for non-HP ink cartridges”, and claiming that “HP intentionally sabotaged printers using non-HP ink”. The firm alleges that the OEM “violated consumer protection laws and US antitirust laws”, highlighting HP Inc’s statement that the firmware update was undertaken to “protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property”.

The firm also notes that “in addition to the harm to the end-user consumer, HP’s sabotage of non-HP ink cartridges is causing significant economic harm to companies that sell generic printer ink. Consumers are returning generic printer cartridge products designed for HP printers and all the generic product designed for HP on the shelves is worthless”.

Aftermarket companies responded to the update by noting their products still work after the update, including Static Control, 3T Supplies’ Peach division, Armor, KMP, LD Products, Gikar Industrial, Pelikan and Cartridge People.

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