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Q & A with Tricia Judge and Beth McKee

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Static Control Dec 07 2022
Q & A with Tricia Judge and Beth McKee
This article was featured in RT Imaging World’s special edition regarding Static Control’s 35 years of business. DOWNLOAD THE FULL MAGAZINE HERE. 

Tricia: For 35 years, Static Control has addressed the industry’s legal issues head on. Do you see this legacy continuing?
Beth: Absolutely! Of course, we are going to continue that legacy. Static Control will continue to fight for the aftermarket, consumer choice and ensure that OEMS do not overstep and lockout that choice, whether that is through firmware or through anti-competitive practices.MicrosoftTeams-image-(14).png

Tricia: What are the OEMs doing right now that has Static Control’s attention?
Beth: You have the firmware issues that are coming through, and you have some of the anti-competitive practices that have been highlighted in the recent actions in the EU and the decision to regulate by the European Commission.
With the EUVA, you saw the OEMs trying to block out the aftermarket by restricting competition. Static Control was active in writing letters and fighting for all the component suppliers and remanufacturers throughout Europe who stood to lose if the European Commission had accepted the proposed Voluntary Agreement.
Firmware has been an issue for a long time, but we are seeing firmware being delivered in a whole host of new ways, many of which the consumer has no understanding or knowledge of and is surprised when the same cartridge that they were printing with when they left the office, suddenly does not work the next day.
It used to be that a firmware update was released, and consumers had to accept the terms and actively update their printers.  Now, you have firmware that is delivered without notice. For example, the time-bomb firmware is loaded into the printer either at the factory or through other means and it is triggered to go off at some point in the future. You have firmware that is on the chip on the cartridge that, when installed, updates the firmware on the printer. In addition, you also have incidents where people have signed up, intentionally or not, to a program that commits them to an automatic firmware update that is pushed to the printer via the web. 

Tricia: HP’s firmware updates are raising legal issues — and ire — with the aftermarket and consumers. What do you think we should do about them? What is Static Control doing for them?
Beth: Consumers are pushing back, and you see that in the class action lawsuits. What Static Control is doing is saying, “do not update your printer firmware!” All the OEM messaging says you must update your printer firmware under the guise of security issues. Static Control is saying you do not have to do that, as we have said for many years.
An interesting development is that Canon is shipping products without chips on them. This takes away from the argument that firmware is required for security reasons. Now they must change what they are saying since it does not match with what they are doing. By default, are they then telling their customers, “Oh you don't need it now, but you'll need it at other times?”

Tricia: HP claims that consumers are given fair warning of the potential problems with firmware and third-party imaging supplies through its disclosures on its packaging and online. What are your thoughts on that position?
Beth: Yes, OEMs claim that they give enough fair warning to consumers, but what has been shown is that consumers do not always understand (or even read) the terms in end user license agreements (EULA). People think that they buy an item and then it is theirs, and then they can use it however they see fit. What happens with a lot of these EULAS is that they have committed to things, prehaps unknowingly, and they are a condition of using that product. The average consumer does not know it, and he has an expectation that he will be able to use the item as he sees fit.
If they were leasing or licensing the product, consumers may be more aware of certain use restrictions. For example, if you lease a car, you can only drive it for a certain number of miles/kilometers. With a printer though, consumers believe they should be able to print it using the products of their choice.
Also, it is interesting when OEMs’ environmental policies are juxtaposed with their stance on firmware. This undermines their stated policy initiatives. Firmware that locks out the consumer’s ability to use aftermarket cartridges creates waste. The consumers now have cartridges that they can no longer consume or use. It may be one cartridge, or many if they bought in bulk, and now those cartridges they have paid for and are perfectly usable become waste. 1W2A5741.JPG
Additionally, many of those aftermarket cartridges are remanufactured, so they are preventing a green-friendly alternative cartridge that was originally an OEM cartridge and supports a circular economy, from being used. How is that better for society and the environment?

Tricia: In Europe this summer, because of the chip shortage, Canon began sending out cartridges without chips with instructions that they were perfectly good without the chips.  Does this destroy their argument that the chips are employed on cartridges for a “legitimate” purpose?

Beth: Yes, absolutely. It’s difficult for an OEM to say that chips and firmware updates are required for safety and security, and then sell cartridges that do not have a chip.
Static Control has heard some customer frustration with the OEM regarding these unchipped cartridges, especially in MPS environments where they rely on the chip to report accurate page yields. These MPS clients now must add a manual process to get the needed information and that costs time and resources. Some have turned to Static Control looking for a complete cartridge solution so that they can get back to an OEM-like experience in performance and page yield.

Tricia: Are there any other legal issues percolating in the industry?
Beth: In the United States, you have some people trying to ban new builds citing environmental concerns. When you take a deeper dive though, they are supporting proposals restricting only aftermarket new builds, some of which are manufactured with recycled plastics, without any restrictions on OEM virgin cartridges.
Static Control has been shifting its new build cartridges to using recycled plastics, and we meet all the required environmental regulations for each region our products are sold in. At Static Control, we are going greener every day. Currently we have just began offering a plastic-free packaging solution in select parts of the world. We have been expanding our Nordic Swan certified toner offering.
We are also seeing a movement of people remanufacturing new build toner cartridges so that they can be reused multiple times, which we see as a step in the right direction.
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