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Epson, we have a problem

Dutch urge inkjet boycott

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The Dutch Consumer Association Consumentenbond is telling its 650,000 members not to buy Epson inkjet cartridge printers because of a "deceptive smart chip".

The chip doesn't indicate the amount of ink left in the cartridge, the association claims, but stops after a number of print runs, even when there is enough ink available for another fifty pages or so.

It is yet another slap in the face for Epson. Just last week, the British Consumer Association's Which? magazine printed similar accusations, advising consumers to steer clear of brand name printer cartridges and pick cheaper alternatives instead.

It is highly unusual for the Dutch consumer association to campaign against a particular brand. In the past, only a struggling Internet company called Superweb and cable company UPC have had the pleasure.

Epson denies any wrongdoing, saying that the chip is preventing users from running out of ink. Epson also questions the test methods being used.

For years, print manufacturers have coupled low-priced inkjet printers to high-priced disposable ink cartridges, but more and more independent businesses started selling refilling toner and ink cartridges for about half the price. A chip makes it tough for the cartridges to be refilled.

Epson's microchip is known as 'Intellidge' and has become the norm for all new Epson printers. There are several versions of these chips, in different cartridge designs. Meanwhile, numerous companies are selling chip resetters for Epson cartridges, which programme the chips to factory specs, showing full ink levels and providing the same number of cycles as when the chip was new, but they are costly.

Last year, several printer manufacturers, including HP and Lexmark, tryed to stop the European Union passing regulation that would outlaw the use of these chips, but their pleas were largely ignored. By 2006 the use of chips to prevent or restrict refills are strictly forbidden under European law. ®

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