Seiko Epson Corp. is facing serious accusations of antitrust violations, anti-consumer behavior, fraud, and even hacking – all stemming from its printer updates. A Californian lawsuit filed Friday seeks to gain class-action status by claiming the Japanese company systematically crippled rivals, defrauded clients, and engaged in a wide variety of other illegal acts.
An all-out offensive on predatory ink cartridge policies
The two plaintiffs who instigated the process – William Mondigo and Richard Famiglietti – previously purchased Epson’s WorkForce WF-3640 All-in-One Printer and XP-830 Small-in-One Printer. Both eventually found themselves unable to continue using the products they paid for as Epson’s post-sale firmware updates disabled their core functionality in case of third-party ink cartridges being detected.
In response, the duo launched an all-out offensive on what they describe as highly predatory practices. Citing a handful of California and Connecticut penal codes, in addition to federal legislation, the lawsuit alleges Epson’s clandestine updates harmed both consumers and third-party suppliers of much more affordable printer ink cartridges. As the firmware revisions in question were pushed out without any straightforward notice to affected users, the complaint also accuses Epson of unauthorized computer access – hacking, in layman’s terms.
Epson issued no comments on the filing and will likely attempt to have the case thrown out or settled – in that order – without even considering a trial by jury the plaintiffs are demanding. This is hardly the company’s first rodeo in the field. One high-profile example saw it settle another class action in 2006 which accused it of fraudulent notifications of empty ink cartridges. Even though those anti-consumer violations cost it approximately $300 million, the majority of the said settlement amount was paid in e-coupons for Epson products and services, which consumer advocacy groups labeled as scandalous.
Whether things will be any different this time around remains to be seen, though realistically, the industry’s Goliaths are probably liking their chances against any aspiring Davids attempting to mess with their profit margins. After all, which megacorporation wouldn’t?