PC WORLD:CONSUMERS DECEIVED BY TONER COST

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PC WORLD:CONSUMERS DECEIVED BY TONER COST

 user 2006-07-19 at 12:02:00 pm Views: 56
  • #15971

    Printing money at PC World
    A 50 percent difference in the price of a cartridge in the same store shows it’s time the industry was more open about printer costsIf you have bought a personal laser or inkjet printer in the past few years, the chances are that you have been shocked by how soon your first cartridge ran out. Manufacturers often include only sample quantities of ink or toner in new machines to keep prices down and ensure that buyers will soon need an expensive refill.It is an example of how competition can work against the buyer. If one company cuts down on the ink or toner to undercut its rivals, the others will follow suit.PCW readers may be knowledgeable enough to expect this kind of thing, but a large proportion of buyers will be deceived on the real cost of the printer, for which the consumables will soon cost more than the machine itself.The point was brought home to me when I went to get a refill for my HP Laserjet 1020, bought a few months ago for £99 at PC World. This is one of the new breed of low-cost lasers and it is a good machine; but, typically, the toner ran out quickly and my first replacement cartridge cost £57, more than half the cost of the printer.So, in practice, the start-up cost of the printer was £99 plus the cost of a full cartridge – £156. Incidentally, HP’s recommended price for the printer at launch time last year was £79 inc VATThe 1020 was ‘discounted’ to £84 at PC World in London’s Tottenham Court Road, where I went to get my second new cartridge. The required 12A cartridges were prominently displayed on the same stack of shelves as the printer, with no prices marked.I am always suspicious of unpriced goods and usually do not buy them on principle, but I needed a cartridge urgently. Some PC World Business catalogues were lying around and I found that two 12A cartridges could be bought for £73.30 ex VAT – a saving, according to the catalogue, of £5.Some rapid mental arithmetic brought me to the conclusion that this translated into a price of about £47 inc VAT for a single cartridge, a price I’d be hard put to match on the web. I bought one by debit card and left the shop. Only when I got home did I find I had been charged £69.99 inc VAT, a mark-up slightly less than 50 per cent.PC World’s explanation was that I had looked at the business catalogue. But how could that possibly justify a 50 per cent difference in the price of the same product in the same quantity in the same shop – particularly when the higher price was not displayed?No wonder PC World felt free to mark down the price of the printer by £15 when it could recoup the difference and more by selling a single refill. And that discount, the company tells me, was limited to that store, so other branches would be making even more.Of course, I cannot say that PC World was deliberately deceptive. When questioned via its press relations people, the company apologised for the fact that the cartridge price was not displayed and said it had ‘addressed the store’ on the issue.It might also have said that providing meaningful information on printers and consumables is not a simple matter.If you buy a can of beans you know precisely how much you are getting because, by law, it is written on the tin. Quantity by weight or volume on inkjet and laser cartridges would mean little; what people need, along with clear and consistent prices, is an estimate of how long a cartridge will last.This is now a standard metric for mono inkjet cartridges but not yet for colour, and clearly a product that lasts for months printing the odd bit of spot colour in text could quickly run out when printing photos.But some confusion could be avoided if manufacturers were obliged, or agreed, to sell printers either separately from their consumables, or fully charged with them. It would give buyers a better estimate of the true cost. As things stand, buyers are bound to feel ripped off.