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 user 2010-01-11 at 10:56:43 am Views: 51
  • #23158


    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.

    Now the
    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, (
    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.

    The information
    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.

    Weights and
    Measures Contact Information
    Bureau of Weights and Measures
    Conner Blvd.
    Lab 2, Mail Stop L2
    Tallahassee , FL 32399-1650