Culture

Printer built to break? The French are très fed up

By Oliver Smith 20 September 2017
Image: Getty/StephM2506.
Summary

Get ready to get angry.

Did your iPhone stop working as soon as the iPhone 8 was announced? Laptop dies as soon as the 1-year warranty expires? Printer ink always ‘running out’, even though you just bought a new cartridge?

Well, there’s a now a good chance you’re not a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy-monkey.

A French lawsuit has been brought against the likes of HP, Canon, Epson and Brother for allegedly building ink cartridges which use “an electronic technique designed to reduce the lifespan of the cartridge.”

Level-headed laws

The lawsuit comes two years after the French Parliament passed a brilliant new environmental rule in 2015 that makes it a crime to “reduce deliberately the lifespan of a product to increase the rate of replacement”.

In our throwaway society, it’s outrageous to think manufacturers deliberately design their products to have a short life, in order to trigger future sales.

But this groundbreaking lawsuit could prove exactly that.

Led by a group called Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (Stop Planned Obsolescence), the suit mainly focuses on Epson, alleging that its ink cartridges are designed to stop working when there is still 20% of the ink left.

And if this first lawsuit is successful (a big ‘if’), then HOP says printers are only the start.

HOP has already pointed to smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung, as well as home appliances as potential future lawsuit targets.

It’s a scary proposition for manufacturers, especially if they have been quietly breaking this law.

Now more than ever, we deserve products and appliances that are built to last.

No exceptions.