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.