Protecting your printer warranty

By: Matt Bird

Date: 21 December 2010

Hardware warranties play a massive role in minimising early start-up expenditure. They provide not just after-sales value, but also security against future unexpected costs.

A 2009 survey conducted by Lexmark (State of Printing) suggested that 78 per cent of customers expected to have to replace their printer within five years. Printer manufacturers have attempted to assuage these consumer fears by providing guarantees lasting up to five years for most popular printers (excluding budget sub-£50 machines).

It stands to reason that you are going to want to protect this, so you’ll need to know how the terms of your warranty are affected.

Your warranty will typically be void if:

  • damage is caused by you attempting to repair a hardware fault yourself
  • modification of the hardware
  • use of the product in unsuitable environment (eg very hot, sub-zero or dusty conditions)
  • acts of God or nature
  • unreasonable print volumes for the printer in question.

Although it is slightly annoying to know my Oki isn’t covered for lightning bolts or flash floods, these are nonetheless reasonable terms. However, there is one area of huge controversy that can affect your warranty – using third party printer consumables

Third party cartridges, as feared by the vast majority of customers, can have implications for your warranty, wholly dependent on the stage of the warranty you are in.

Standard warranty

Standard warranty typically covers the first year’s performance of your printer (or a high volume number of prints stated in the warranty conditions, whichever occurs first). It is illegal for a manufacturer to void this standard warranty because of third party cartridges. Rest assured, they’ll try to tell you they can, but you’re protected by this piece of legislation:

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act Chapter 50 – Section 2302
(c) No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer's using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection be waived by the commission if:

  1. The warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and
  2. the Commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest.

Extended warranties

Typically requiring registration with the manufacturer to activate, it is hazy at present whether these optional, manufacturer-provided, warranty extensions are exempt from the aforementioned Act. Do not be surprised if legislation soon moves to block this common practice by making the Act clearer.

This is unavoidable and places even more importance on the retailers from whom you source consumables. Always check for evidence of quality testing, performance guarantees and testimonials on customer service before buying. You are paying money in a highly competitive environment; these should be provided as standard.

Ultimately, third-party cartridges should be perfectly reliable (it’s so rare I have only encountered it once in the past year) you just need to be careful shoppers.

Working towards better warranties

At my company, Stinkyink.com, we are in contact with manufacturers for explanation of how they can legally enforce this, and we will get back with their response if they ever do provide a straight answer.

Have you had a bad experience with a manufacturers terms and conditions? Post below and see if anyone else has not only gone through the same thing, but if they have suggestions to help.

Matt Bird of printer cartridge supplier, StinkyInk

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