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Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | Back issues
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Class action against HP over all-in-one printers survives motion to dismiss

The plaintiffs in the suit say HP all-in-one printers won't fax or scan when they're low on ink — even though those functions don't actually require ink.

(CN) — A federal judge in Northern California, on Thursday, advanced a class action against HP — the company formerly known as Hewlett-Packard — over its so-called "all-in-one" printers that two consumers said were designed to cease all functions when their ink runs low, including functions that don't actually need ink, like scanning or faxing.

"Printer ink — which can exceed $80 an ounce — is more expensive than many cherished luxury items including silver, caviar and champagne," the two plaintiffs said in the complaint. "What HP fails to disclose is that, if even one of the ink cartridges is too low, empty, or damaged, the scanning function on the 'all-in-one' printer will be disabled and will not work as advertised."

The first version of the complaint, filed in June 2022, did not include a reason for the apparent design flaw, and was dismissed without prejudice in January of this year. The amended complaint, with different causes of action, says the flaw was intentional, citing an HP message board in which a customer complained about an all-in-one printer that wouldn't scan because its black ink cartridge damaged. A response from someone purporting to be an "HP Support Agent" read: "HP Printer is designed in such a way that with the empty cartridge or without the cartridge printer will not function.”

"HP’s intent is clear, namely, to have their multi-function devices revert to an inoperable 'error state' so that a large subset of those multi-function device purchasers will purchase additional overpriced and unnecessary ink cartridges in order to be able to scan and to fax documents," the plaintiffs say in the complaint. "The end goal is to increase the sales of one HP’s largest profit makers, ink cartridges, by any and all means."

That was enough for U.S. District Court Judge Beth Freeman, who wrote in her decision, "The court finds these allegations sufficient at this stage because they identify the specific cause of the defect and how the defect manifests."

The judge agreed to strike one of the claims, under Minnesota’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, but denied motions to strike or dismiss the other causes of action, which include fraudulent omission, false claims and unfair competition.

Neither party's attorneys responded to emails requesting a comment on the ruling by press time.

HP has faced numerous legal actions over its printers and printer ink cartridges. In 2020, the multinational company reached a $1.5 million settlement over claims that the its printers had software that would "diminish" their "capabilities" if they were loaded with third-party ink cartridges. And it was forced to settle a similar lawsuit in Europe for $1.35 million. In March, the news site The Verge reported that HP printers were still blocking third-party ink.

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Categories / Consumers, Courts

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