Recently there was a meeting between labeling regulators and ink cartridge
brands at The National Conference on Weights and Measures.
According we reported in this blog
, the US Conference of Weights and Measures would compel manufacturers to improve their labeling standards.
No longer could Epson cartridges list misleading printout yields. No longer would HP hide the ink volume of their cartridges. Instead consumers would pick up an OEM cartridge – they’d see that it housed 20ml of ink – they’d realize it cost $24.99 – and they’d snort with disgust.
Years later and OEM cartridge profits would plummet an estimated $5 billion.
Of course that was last month, and the brilliant dawn of realization hasn’t happened. There are two possibilities:
(1) the labelling regulators and toner brands are still debating or
(2) The conference was sensationalized.
Post-conference ink labeling standards remain the same, and we must accept that The Weights and Measures Conference solved nothing.
Yet there has been fallout in the blogging world.
On February 2 Taeho Lim at Cartridge News outlined his scheme to help consumers keep track of their toner use. He proposes that consumers who know their rate of ink consumption could make more informed decisions, and that printer software ought display this.
In short, he takes the consumer desire for more information as literal. By doing this Lim misses the point of the labeling furore completely.
The absence of accurate labeling is a problem because OEM brands are hiding the real cost of ink from consumers. That consumers wish to precede each purchase with a quantitative analysis of how the last cartridge fared (as Lam suggests) is unlikely.
Dean Gallea of Consumer Reports even argues that the most useful information
for consumers is that already given by OEM brands: pageyield. To label the volume of ink contained in a cartridge will not tell consumers how many prints the cartridge contains; some printouts use more ink than others.
Instead, stating the volume of ink on the cartridge is important because it tells consumers how much they’re paying per liter. It lets consumers compare what they pay with the cost of production. It reveals OEM brands for the price gougers they (likely) are.
Charles le Compte of Lyra Research puts it best: volume information “sets in motion a dynamic that will drive down cartridge prices over time.” Once the consumer not only complains but proves he’s being overcharged, prices must tumble.
Before The Conference of Weights and Measures, chief Max Gray told American Public Media why he targeted ink cartridge labeling: “All of this lack of clarity… led me to feel that maybe this should be addressed.”
To what end addressed?
Gray may intend that OEM brands give all possible facts, as Lim outlines. He may be launching a covert attack to make OEM brands lower their prices. The conference last month solved nothing: ink cartridge
labels remain unclear.
With any luck what Gray intends will become clear in the near future.
There has been much discussion lately regarding the cost of ink. As manufacturers lower their price on printers, they in turn raise the prices on cartridges that allow you to continue printing. If only you could compare how much ink is contained in a cartridge prior to purchase.
The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) 95th Interim Meeting is being held January 24 - 27, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. The NCWM is an organization of weights and measures officials of the states, counties and cities of the United States, federal agencies and private sector representatives. These meetings bring together government officials and representatives of business, industry, trade associations, and consumer organizations on subjects related to the field of weights and measures technology, administration and enforcement. NIST participates to promote uniformity among the states in laws, regulations, methods, and testing equipment that comprise the regulatory control of commercial weighing and measuring devices and other trade and commerce issues.
One of the significant agenda items that will be considered is the Method of Sale of Commodities Regulation, including Packaged Printer Ink and Toner Cartridges. The NCWM Laws and Regulations Committee (L&R Committee) will discuss a proposed method of ink sales that would clarify the labeling requirements for packaged inkjet and toner cartridges to ensure that consumers are informed about the net quantity of contents of these products so that value comparisons can be made.
One recent consumer advocate study 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. 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 Original Manufacturers ink cartridges. The push for more exact information, including a "liquid measure" has finally gotten enough attention to urge this meeting between NCWM regulators and manufacturers over how the cartridges are to be labelled.
An attorney for Lexmark
argues that ink use varies due to print quality chosen, and that the cost of the ink is only a small part of the cartridge, a sophisticated micro-machine, and its related cost and therefore disclosing ink volumes would actually be misleading to consumers. NCWM is told to expect a fight from such manufacturers accustomed to being exempt from labelling laws.
Many ink and toner manufacturers and retailers, such as Clickinks.com
, do self regulate, providing customers with an average page yield like shown below. If you are purchasing a new printer it is highly recommended that you do some research to find page yield per cartridge on your own, at least until all manufacturers are required to follow suit, labelling printer ink and toner cartridges with such measurements.