Consumer court allows HP to sell printers with 3 ml start-up cartridges

On July 29, 2007, Rajan Alimchandani purchased a Hewlett-Packard printer from Bitsy Infotech in Borivli. To his surprise, he was only able to print 22 copies before the cartridge ran out of ink. Upon inquiring with the seller, Alimchandani was told that the printer came with a ‘start-up’ or ‘demonstration’ cartridge with 3ml of ink in it.

Rajan Alimchandani
Rajan Alimchandani at his Worli residence with the HP cartridge. Pic/Bipin Kokate

After a correspondence in which Alimchandani accused the manufacturer and seller of ‘unfair trade practice’, he approached Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. The court ruled in his favour, and ordered both Bitsy and Hewlett-Packard to pay Rs 650 towards the cost of a regular cartridge, along with Rs 10,000 as compensation.

Significantly, the forum also ordered HP to discontinue the practice of supplying start-up or introductory cartridges with their printers and furnish regular ones instead. Speaking to MiD DAY, 68-year-old Alimchandani, who had fought the case without a lawyer, said, “After the court order, all of HP’s newspaper advertisements clearly stated that they were supplying start-up cartridges with their printers. Had I known this fact at the time of making the purchase, I would have opted for something else. Nowhere in their printer’s brochures was it mentioned that the device came with a start-up cartridge.”

The box does mention that the cartridge contains 3ml of ink, but Alimchandani says this is not enough to alert buyers. Prospective customers are then forced to buy refill cartridges costing between Rs 750 and Rs 950 each. However, a bench of State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, comprising Presiding Member S R Khanzode and Member Narendra Kawde, on Wednesday held that supplying an introductory cartridge, which emptied quickly was not an ‘unfair trade practice’.

While allowing HP’s appeal and ruling in their favour, the court observed, “The list of contents on the packing of the new printer cum copier, etc. clearly mentions the supply of introductory cartridge containing 3 ml of ink and this introductory cartridge was duly supplied. Therefore, it is not that something misleading is represented to the complainant to induce him to buy the product.”

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