SHOWDOWN : OEM's Vs. THE BUREAU OF WEIGHTS & MEASURES
SHOWDOWN : OEM's Vs. THE BUREAU OF WEIGHTS & MEASURES
2010-01-11 at 10:56:43 am #23158
BETWEEN OEM’s & BUREAU OF WEIGHTS & MEASURES
An ounce of filet mignon can cost you $1 at
your grocery store — and the butcher won’t hesitate to quote you the
price.But the cost of ink for your computer’s printer? It can rival the
cost of caviar — and you won’t be able to pin down the price because the
companies that make those expensive little cartridges don’t want to
tell you how much ink they contain.
The price of printer
cartridges has long irritated consumers and their advocates, and they
say the lack of information from manufacturers only aggravates the
situation. One recent study even estimated that consumers could save
billions of dollars a year if they were armed with full information
about how much it would cost to operate various printers.Consumer
advocates’ push for more information has been getting some attention
lately, setting up a showdown between regulators and cartridge
manufacturers over how the cartridges are labeled.
of printer cartridges say they aren’t required to follow laws such as
the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, so they usually don’t say how much
ink is in a cartridge. They prefer instead to estimate how many pages
your printer will churn out before you need to replace the cartridge.
irks consumer advocates, who question why cartridges can cost $30, $40
or more while containing only a fraction of an ounce of ink that costs
the manufacturer less than $1. In addition, they say, the tests that
produce the page-printing estimates have their own problems and
inaccuracies. At the very least, adding the ink volume information would
be useful for consumers wanting to make comparisons.
National Conference on Weights and Measures, a group of state weights
and measures officials, plans to take up the issue at its meeting this
month in Nashville, Tenn.
A decision by that body can have
effects across the country.
“It’s time to sort all of this out,” said
Max Gray, chief of Florida’s Bureau of Weights and Measures, (http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/standard/weights/index.html)who
originally submitted the issue to the national group.
industry has already told weights and measures officials they can expect
a fight. Lexmark International Inc., one company that sells the
cartridges, argued in a recent letter that disclosing ink volumes would
actually be misleading to consumers.
The cartridges, which
Lexmark describes as micro-machines, can use varying amounts of ink
based on print quality and the amount of ink deposited on a page, so a
comparison based on quantity of ink would be misleading, the company
says. And the cost of the ink is only a small part of the cartridges’
cost, the letter said.“Treating these sophisticated machines as though
they were mere containers for ink is inappropriate,” said Charles
Kratzer, an attorney for Lexmark.
The letter goes on to note that
for decades, ink, including that in ink cartridges, has been exempted
from labeling laws.But that position was recently rejected by the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has a unit that
helps oversee weights and measures laws. Ink cartridges need a statement
of “liquid measure” to comply with regulations, the institute said.
printer manufacturers, except Kodak, sell the printers at low cost and
then earn big profits on the cartridges. The American Consumer Institute
in a study in late 2008 said that consumers were being lured into a bad
deal by buying the lower-cost printers and then overpaying an estimated
$6 billion per year for the cartridgesCritics say that telling
consumers only the estimated number of pages a cartridge will produce
doesn’t give them enough information. The industry standard allows the
page count to be off as much as 10 percent, and there is no standard for
the number of photos a cartridge will produce.
on page counts also is usually not verified by state weights and
measures officials, in part because there are hundreds of printer
models.The cartridge manufacturers say the page counts, though offering a
comparison, have to be used carefully. The test involves printing pages
of graphics and text until they begin to fade. HP, a cartridge
manufacturer, says that actual page yield depends on the “content of the
printed pages, frequency of printing, ink used in printer setup and
other factors.”Using a printer infrequently would also lower the page
count because some ink is used to clear the printer’s nozzles when it is
started. That means if 1,000 pages were printed all at once, less ink
would be needed than if 1,000 pages were printed over six months because
the printer was turned off and on.
Critics also claim that, in
at least some cases, manufacturers could easily provide more ink in the
cartridges.The move to require a disclosure of ink volume has gathered
some seemingly unlikely supporters, such as Neel Venkatesh, who owns Dr.
Ink in Orlando, Fla. His store refills ink cartridges, so his business
actually benefits from cartridges that need to be filled more
frequently. But over the years, Venkatesh has become concerned about
some industry practices and says more attention needs to be paid to the
amount of ink in a cartridge.
For example, he has found some
cartridges that could hold more ink, but the sponge-like material that
holds the ink fills only part of the cartridge’s interior that’s
available for it.He has joined those pushing to require cartridge
manufacturers to disclose ink amounts, which he said is information that
consumers should have, just as they do with so many other products they
purchase.“It’s about corporate injustice,” he said.
Measures Contact Information
Bureau of Weights and Measures
Lab 2, Mail Stop L2
Tallahassee , FL 32399-1650