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No ink, no scan: Canon USA printers hit by class action lawsuit

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We all hate that when a single ink in our inkjet printers runs out, most printers won’t allow us to print at all. It’s especially annoying when we want to print an ordinary black and white document, but the printer says “No way!” when we run out of, say, cyan ink. Now Canon USA has hit a new low in printing frustration. According to a class action lawsuit, the Canon Pixma MG6320 “all-in-one” machine won’t even scan or fax documents if the printer runs out of ink.

The annoyed user, the law firm of David Leacraft, Levi & Korsinsky, a New York-based security firm, sued Canon in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Leacraft is suing on its own behalf and on behalf of everyone else in the same annoying situation. He seeks $5 million in damages, excluding interest, costs and legal fees.

His claim? “As opposed to the ‘single function’ printers it sells, Canon calls these multifunction devices a ‘3-in-1’ or ‘4-in-1’ for the fact that they allegedly provide three or four functions.” But, “In truth, all-in-one printers won’t scan or fax documents when the devices have low or empty ink cartridges (the ‘design problem’), and Canon’s advertising claims are false, misleading and reasonably likely to mislead the public.”

Additionally, “There is no reason or technical basis for making all-in-one printers with an ink level detection feature that causes the scanner to stop when ink is low or empty. Canon designed all-in-one printers as a way to force consumers to keep ink in their devices whether or not they intended to print.”

The claims are made because Canon is seeking to increase its profits by selling replacement ink cartridges. The plaintiff added that since printer inks usually expire after a few years, whether they are used or not, users of all-in-one machines are forced to keep buying new ink just to use the scanner function.

Additionally, since inkjet ink costs $12,000 a gallon, ink prices are also outrageous. It’s no surprise that, according to a Consumer Reports 2019 printer usage survey, “the most common complaint was the high cost and hassle of replacing ink cartridges.”

Now Canon USA isn’t hiding the fact that their all-in-one printers require ink to scan, and they’ve been doing so since at least 2016. A response to the same issue, only on a PIXMA MG5420, said, ” If you get a ‘Low Ink’ warning, you will still be able to scan but not print. If you get an ‘Ink Out’ error, you will not be able to use the device until the ink is replaced.”

Why? The Canon representative explained, “These precautions are in place to prevent damage to the printer if an attempt is made to print without ink. The printer uses ink to cool the print head during the printing process. If there is no ink, the printhead could be damaged, otherwise the device will require repair.” You may notice that this unanswered answer has nothing to do with scanning.

Canon isn’t the only printer manufacturer that requires scanning or faxing inks to work. To date, however, none of these other companies have been sued.

The court has yet to rule on the lawsuit, and Canon has not yet responded. If the case moves forward, the plaintiff requests a jury trial. Given what people think of printers, I doubt it’s going well for Canon.

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