Canon USA hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming it's conning consumers

A federal lawsuit filed in New York against the company argues it is misleading buyers of its "all-in-one" printers by forcing them to purchase new ink cartridges for the devices to work properly.

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Image: Shutterstock/Production Perig

A class-action complaint against Canon USA—the subsidiary of the multinational corporation that is well-known for manufacturing an array of tech products (from cameras to semiconductors and printers, of course, among other things)—was recently hit with legal accusations that its so-called all-in-one printers are manufactured to scam consumers into buying printer ink. And if they don't, all the advertised functions of the devices won't work as billed.  

Specifically, an individual named David Leacraft claims that Canon is purposely duping consumers by falsely claiming its popular printers are multiple-use devices—ones that can handle printing, copying, scanning (and also faxing in its more expensive versions).  

Leacraft—who is listed in the lawsuit as a resident of Queens, New York—alleges that shortly after he bought a Canon PIXMA MG2522 All-in-One Printer from his local Walmart, he soon discovered that the gadget didn't "function as a scanner if the ink cartridges are low or empty." 

And the reasoning for him buying the product in the first place, he argues, was primarily for its purported scanning capabilities. Canon currently offers three-in-one or four-in-one printer products (in other words, these can serve-up some—or all—of the above-mentioned features). 

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The lawsuit cites Canon's website listing the following: "Whether it's printing documents and reports, or faxing and scanning, the PIXMA TR8620 is the ultimate compact home office printer that's big on performance and productivity." 

But the lead plaintiff says—on behalf of himself and others—that this is a bogus assertion.  

"Ink," the action states, "is not a necessary component to scan a document." The complaint goes on to argue that roughly 20 of Canon's all-in-one devices are fraudulently manufactured to bamboozle individuals into purchasing more printer ink to make the machine's other marketed offerings work properly.  

The suit also says frustrations over its all-in-one printers and alleged promises for the functionality of its devices goes back to at least 2015. 

The class action cites one customer as writing on the Canon Community webpage: "I have a MX330 [Canon, multi-function printer]. Works great otherwise but if I run out of colour ink or remove an ink cartridge it wont scan. I'm SCANNING. [W]hy does this affect scanning. It shouldn't."

In a response, a Canon representative replied, "The printer requires that both ink cartridges be installed in the printer in order to scan, even if they are low or out of ink. In addition, when an error condition is present on the printer (such as being out of ink), other functions of the unit will not be able to be performed until that issue is addressed." 

The suit lists others having similar gripes with how the product functions. 

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As such, the causes of what led this class action to be filed are listed as a breach of the expressed warranty, unjust enrichment and violations of two New York general business laws that protect customers from bogus advertising and deceptive claims.    

In the US, Canon is primarily based in Huntington, New York, and it is a subsidiary of Canon Inc. (which has its main headquarters in Tokyo, Japan).   

The class action was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and currently there is nothing listed on PACER (the access service site for federal court documents) with a retort from Canon's attorneys over the accusations.  

TechRepublic also reached out to Canon representatives over the matter but didn't receive a response back before the publication of this piece.

The representative action says since there are at least more than 100 class members affected by Canon's alleged bogus claims, the amount sought needs to exceed $5 million—not to mention that the costs ostensibly will need to to cover interest, fees and overall litigation costs from the sought-after jury trial.

The full complaint—uploaded online by BleepingComputer—can be read here.  

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By Eric Allen Been

Eric Allen Been is a writer and editor who is from Louisville, Kentucky, and currently based in the Cincinnati area. His work has appeared in Vox, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, the New Republic, VICE, Harvard Magazine, MIT's Undark and other public...