Court Refuses Class-Action Suit Alleging Epson Misrepresented Printers’ Ability to Print with Black Ink Cartridge Only

Epson Stylus NX 200

Epson Stylus NX 200

Law360 reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit has refused to certify a proposed class-action suit that alleges Epson America misled consumers with advertising that stated users could print in black-and-white with only a black ink cartridge with Epson inkjet printers.

The court, affirming a lower-court decision, stated that some consumers who purchased Epson printers from online stores such as Amazon weren’t exposed to the allegedly deceptive statement on the printer box that read “Replace only the color you need with individual ink cartridges.”

The case began with plaintiff Gisele Rogers, who had purchased an Epson Stylus NX 200 inkjet printer, and who claimed that nearly all of the purchasers in the proposed class-action lawsuit purchased the printers at brick-and-mortar stores contained in boxes displaying the statement “Replace only the color you need with individual ink cartridges.”

The lower court, however, ruled that some other purchasers bought the printers at Web sites that didn’t display the statement.

On April 26th, the Ninth Circuit agreed, stating, “In a case of this nature, one based upon product labeling, advertising, and the like, it is critical that the misrepresentation in question be made to all of the class members.”

Rogers and others also alleged that Epson and affiliate Epson Accessories misrepresented and concealed the “grossly inefficient print yields generated by [their] ink cartridges, which are well below reasonable consumer expectations and the yields of other manufacturers’ printers.”

The complaint alleges fraud and violations of state laws regulating unfair business practices, false advertising, and consumer protection. The plaintiffs sought to represent a class that would include everyone in the United States who purchased an Epson inkjet printer and ink cartridges within four years of the filing of the suit.

Law360 notes that a previous court threw out the complaint’s allegations that Epson ink cartridges didn’t match other ink cartridges’ page yields:

“In August 2011, Judge Gutierrez threw out most of the putative class action, ruling the printer maker had no duty to tell customers its inkjet printers were less efficient than other brands. The judge said that courts have unequivocally rejected the idea that a manufacturer is obliged to disclose on its packaging that its products perform less efficiently than similar products from competing manufacturers and that there was no defect in the product.

However, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed to trial on claims that Epson deceived customers when it told them that its NX series of printers, which use individual cartridges for different colors of ink, would allow customers to ‘replace only the color you need.’

Judge Gutierrez in September 2011 denied Rogers’ motion for class certification, saying it didn’t matter if some of the consumers who bought the printers online subsequently saw the misrepresentation when the package arrived in the mail. In those cases, there wasn’t a causal connection between the money spent on the printer and the purportedly deceptive advertising, according to the judge.”

The case is Gisele Rogers et al. versus Epson America Inc. et al.

Our Take

It’s a good thing that a judge shut down that class-action suit, and it just goes to show what a circus our litigious justice system has devolved into. It appears the confused plaintiff misinterpreted “Replace only the color you need with individual ink cartridges” to mean you only need ink in a black cartridges to print black-only, even if the color cartridges are presumably missing or empty. Moreover, they level charges about “grossly inefficient print yields” that are determined using an ISO standard test method. Granted, being unable to print when a color cartridge runs out is a pain and all, and it’s unclear why you can do it with some printers but not with others, even among models from the same vendor. Finally, we are growing weary of people whining about ink and page yields, while you never hear anybody whining about how it costs $750 to replace the toner cartridges in their $250 color laser printer – even though the the color Cost per Page can be over five-times more than that of a faster inkjet printer.

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