Epson caught red-handed

Epson programs the blocking of its printers. Planned obsolescence is still relevant.

Printers are essential tools for office life. While they are becoming more and more sophisticated, they do not seem to have solved their main fault: recurring and sudden failures. Error messages are displayed and the only way to be able to print this document that you absolutely must obtain is to call an authorized repairer. However, she was walking very well the day before.

Has the room concerned suddenly decided to go on strike? Not really according Fight To Repair, which screened several Epson brand printers. It was after the publication of a tweet from Mark Tavern, a lecturer at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, that the forum dedicated to repair looked into the subject. The man explains that his wife’s printer is bricked by displaying a message: “The device has reached the end of its service life.” The only option for him is to pay a repairman or buy a new printer.

According Fight To Repair, these error messages are programmed by the company to prevent additional damage due to the arrival at the end of the life of certain parts. Epson explains on its website as follows:

“Like so many other products, all of Epson’s consumer inkjet products have a limited lifespan due to component wear and tear during normal use. At some point, the product will reach a state where satisfactory print quality cannot be maintained or components will have reached the end of their useful life. (…) Printers are designed to stop working to the point where further use without replacing ink pads (cited issue in Mark’s case ndlr) could create property damage from ink spillage or related safety issues excess ink in contact with an electrical component.”

According Fight to Repair, it is the L310, L360 and L365 models that would be affected, other models and brands could nevertheless use the same strategy. Epson did not respond to requests from Fight to Repair.

An illegal practice?

In fact, Epson wants to protect its users and their devices by applying the precautionary principle. At least that’s the argument put forward by the company. However, is it really legal? Fight to Repair addressed Aaron Perzanowski, law professor and author Right to Repair. “As far as I know, this practice is not clearly disclosed before the purchase of these printers. Even if there is a mention buried in a license or website, a software time bomb like this goes against reasonable consumer expectations.”

A contrarian practice

Planned obsolescence was brought to light a long time ago. This practice has disastrous environmental consequences. Overconsumption leads to the production of 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste and appliances every year around the world. We think that 16 to 20 kg of such waste are discarded per person per year. This type of practice therefore weighs heavily on the bill.

Moreover, planned obsolescence does not only have consequences on our production of waste, it also leads to an increase in production and the depletion of resources, the destruction of land and vegetation. In France, according to article 99 of law 2015-992, planned obsolescence designates “the set of techniques by which a marketer aims to deliberately reduce the lifespan of a product in order to increase its replacement rate.”

She is punished with two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 euros, the amount of the fine could be increased to 5% of the average annual turnover. It should also be remembered that in 2020, the government implemented the mandatory product repairability rating as part of the anti-waste law. It lets you know at a glance if the product you want has a long lifespan and if its repair is expensive or not.

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