Planned Obsolescence Rears Its Ugly Head in Epson Printer Spat

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A recent tweet about a self-bricking Epson printer has reminded everyone how important the right to repair is. The printer in question alerted its owners that it had reached the end of its lifespan, and then promptly stopped working. Epson’s response is a reminder that many of the devices you own come with secret expiration dates. 

While most technologies have become more versatile and reliable over the years, printers are an outlier: They’re terrible. In this instance, the cause of the end-of-life message is the ink pads. These components are designed to soak up excess ink so it doesn’t get smeared on your pages or leak from the printer. Epson has determined how long these parts usually last, and when the timer is up, the printer just stops working. 

The solution is also a problem: Epson says you can ship the printer back for service or have a certified repair technician replace the parts. In either case, the parts, labor, and shipping won’t be cheap. Epson has also opted to graciously provide a one-time reset app that will give you a little more time to finish any urgent printing, but the program only works on Windows versions up through 10 — no Mac or Windows 11 support. 

Epson has responded to the controversy, saying that most users will never see this particular message. Only those who use their printers heavily are likely to end up with saturated ink pads. Although, heavy printers are also the type to buy Epson’s more expensive units, which should not stop working after a few years. 

According to The Verge, Epson has updated a support article to downplay the ludicrousness of its decisions. Previously, the page noted that servicing an aging printer is often not worth the money, so most people just buy new ones. This is, of course, entirely thanks to the way Epson has opted to design its printers. The page does point out you can recycle the old printer, and recycling is good. True, Epson, but continuing to use a device that’s perfectly functional is better. 

The ink pads themselves are not complicated. Some tutorials on YouTube show people cutting up sponges as replacements, but should consumers really have to do that? There’s nothing stopping Epson from designing its printers to make these parts user-accessible and selling a kit to swap them out. Well, nothing but money. Epson and other printer manufacturers would rather you just buy a new printer.

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