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French Association Fighting Against Built-in Obsolescence Lodges Complaint Against Several Printer Manufacturers

A French association whose mission is to fight against built-in obsolescence (Halte à l’obsolescence programmée) lodged a complaint against a number of printer manufacturers on the grounds that they had deliberately designed their printers and their ink cartridges for the purposes of shortening their service life (so-called “built-in obsolescence” or “planned obsolescence”). The printer manufacturers reported in the complaint include Brother, Epson and HP.

This is the first time that a claim is brought in connection with the manufacturers’ obligation not to deliberately shorten the service life of their products. The ability to lodge a complaint on this ground was introduced by the 2015 French Law on the Energy Transition for Green Growth.

According to Article L.441-2 of the Law, built-in obsolescence has been defined as “all the techniques by which a placer on the market deliberately shortens the service life of a product for the purpose of increasing its replacement rate”, and the breach of this obligation may lead to the imposition of fines of up to € 300,000 or 5% of the turnover of the company, as well as up to two years imprisonment.

To succeed in establishing its claim, the Association whose mission is to fight against built-in obsolescence has to overcome the difficult burden of demonstrating that:

(i) the printer manufacturers deliberately intended to shorten the service life of their printers and/or ink cartridges,

(ii) for the purpose of increasing their replacement rate.

According to a report, the Association intends to rely on previous market studies it carried out in the sector and on the existence of practices which it considers as particularly problematic, such as the following:

  • Ink cartridges are allegedly deactivated by a chip, despite the fact that there is 20% or 30% ink left in the cartridge;
  • A light allegedly indicates that the “ink container is full”, although this turns out to be incorrect when further inspecting and dissembling the printer.

The Association has also filed a complaint to the French Competition Authority alleging that the printer manufacturers engaged in cartel activity.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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