Some Epson inkjet printers are designed to shut down after a certain number of prints

Photo (c) Somchai Choochat/Eye Em - Getty Images

Consumers have to either pay for a repair or buy a new printer

When a product stops working properly, some consumers simply replace it. Others want to repair it so they can continue to use it.

That’s the whole point of “right to repair” rules, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it plans to vigorously enforce

Some Epson printer owners say that after years of use, their printers have displayed a message saying the device has “reached the end of its service life,” suggesting it must be replaced. But there appears to be an available repair.

The issue affects Epson L130, L220, L310, L360 and L365 models, which are all inkjet printers. There are pads inside the printers that soak up excess ink. When the pads get full the printer tells the user that its life is over.

Danger of ink spills?

Epson says it designed the printer to stop working when the pads get full of ink because of the danger of an ink spill. Usually, the company says the printer wears out at about the same time the pads get full so it’s time to buy a new printer.

But a number of consumers posting on message boards say their printers were working just fine until the “end of life” message flashed. A Reddit user going by the handle Flared 101 claimed it's just another example of planned obsolescence. 

“It's all the same: buy another one of our identical products in this season's colors, whose technology hasn't fundamentally changed in any way since 2001,” the post said. 

Here’s what Epson says

Epson says the printers can be serviced to replace the pads, but it has to be done by an authorized Epson vendor. It has also addressed the issue on its website.

“In the event a user receives this alert, the printer needs to be properly maintained in order to continue printing,” the company said. “Epson understands the importance for its customers to be able to print whenever they need to and offers flexible options to extend printing, including a one-time Maintenance Reset Utility, enabling North American customers to continue printing for a limited time in order to determine the repair solution that best fits their needs.”

The company also says the printers in question are not very expensive and a repair may be less cost-effective that simply buying a new printer. Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard University law professor, has written that in cases like this, consumers think they have purchased a product but in fact, “are only renting a service.”

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