No ink, no scan: Canon USA printers hit with class-action suit

A class-action lawsuit has been launched against Canon for its 4-in-1 printers refusing to scan when one of their ink tanks is empty.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

We all hate that when any single ink in our inkjet printers is out, most printers won't allow us to print at all. That's especially annoying when we want to print an ordinary black and white document, but the printer says "No way!" when we're out of, say, cyan ink. Now, Canon USA has reached a new low in printing frustration. According to a class-action lawsuit, the Canon Pixma MG6320 "all-in-one" machine won't even scan or fax documents if the printer is out of ink

The annoyed user, David Leacraft's law firm, Levi & Korsinsky, a NYC-based security company, sued Canon in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Leacraft is suing on his own behalf and on behalf of everyone else in the same annoying situation. He's seeking $5-million in damage awards, exclusive of interest, fees, and litigation costs.

His claim? "As opposed to the 'single function' printers it sells, Canon calls these multifunction devices a '3-in-1' or '4-in-1' for the fact they purportedly provide three or four functions." But, "In truth, the All-in-One Printers do not scan or fax documents when the devices have low or empty ink cartridges (the "Design Issue"), and Canon's advertising claims are false, misleading, and reasonably likely to deceive the public."

Further, "There is no reason or technical basis for manufacturing the All-in-One Printers with an ink level detection function that causes the scanner to stop functioning when ink is low or empty. Canon designed the All-in-One Printers in such a way to require consumers to maintain ink in their devices regardless of whether they intend to print."

The claims are being done because Canon is seeking to increase its profits by selling replacement ink cartridges. The plaintiff added that since printer inks typically expire after a few years, whether used or not, all-in-one machines users are forced to keep buying new ink just to use the scanner function. 

In addition, since inkjet ink costs an astronomical $12,000 a gallon, the ink prices are also outrageous. It comes as no surprise that according to a 2019 Consumer Reports printer use survey, the "most common complaint was the high cost and hassle of replacing ink cartridges." 

Now Canon USA makes no bones about the fact that their all-in-one printers do require ink to scan, and they've been doing it since at least 2016. An answer to the same problem, only on a PIXMA MG5420, stated, "If you are experiencing a "Low Ink" warning, you will still be able to scan, but not print. If you are getting an 'Ink Out' error, you will not be able to use the unit until the ink is replaced."

Why? The Canon representative explained:  "These precautions are in place to prevent damage to the printer from occurring if printing with no ink is attempted. The printer uses the ink to cool the printhead during the printing process. If no ink is present, the printhead could be damaged, or the unit would require service." You may note this non-answer answer has nothing to do with scanning.

Canon is not the only printer manufacturer to require inks for scanning or faxing to work. To date, however, none of these other companies has been taken to court. 

The court has yet to take action on the lawsuit, nor has Canon replied yet. If the case does move forward, the plaintiff is asking for a jury trial. Considering how people feel about printers, I doubt this would turn out well for Canon.

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