Epson Receives Renewed Criticism Over End-of-Life Bricking Firmware!

Printers are probably the most detested piece of computer-related technology around. They never seem happy and perpetually complain over having to do the simplest of tasks (a bit like a teenager I guess). Epson products, however, are perhaps more uniquely loathed because of a rather terse piece of coding within their firmware.

Namely, Epson printers (probably all, but I couldn’t say for sure) come with built-in end-of-life programming within its firmware. Once a specific period of time (or use) has elapsed, the printer basically says ‘that’s it, I’m done now’ and is designed to brick itself from further use. – In other words, they come out of the box with guaranteed redundancy built into the system.

Now, I’m fully aware that this is not a ‘new’ issue. Its existence has been known for quite some time. Following a report via the Verge, however, it seems that one post has sparked a fresh wave of criticism against Epson for including such a system in the first place!

Epson Gets Fresh Criticism Over Printer End-Of-Life Bricking!

In fairness to Epson, they’ve never denied the existence of the ‘bricking’ technology and have regularly insisted that there is both a reason and a purpose for it. Specifically, they build it into printers where it’s detected that the ink pads may be experiencing a potential fault. As such, the printer is rendered ‘bricked’ (ie. non-functional) to ensure that there is no risk of any problems such as, for example, a rather catastrophic leak. – Reading between the lines, the function is in place because Epson doesn’t want to receive angry emails in regards to how one of their printers dribbled all over a desk and ruined furniture and hardware, etc.

And just in case it needed to be said, while they never denied it, they certainly haven’t made it a key point in their product marketing either.

Is There a Devil’s Advocate?…

Of course, though, this doesn’t really do much to quell the fresh rise of outrage from consumers and particularly so during a time when tech waste is such a key issue in many countries. – And following the Twitter post above, it does seem that Epson is, once again, being freshly raked over the coals for this with consumers clearly wanting to see it removed completely.

We should note though that in terms of generic home usage, it’s exceptionally unlike you’d ever encounter this problem over the ‘usual’ lifespan of a printer. The problem is more notable among models which see a somewhat unusually large amount of work (office/business use, etc.) and if you only print maybe 15-30 pages a month, you’ll likely never even come close to having this issue present itself.

For Epson though, this is clearly a tricky problem. There are, after all, many ways you can approach this. The cynical view, of course, is that Epson has this in place to ensure that printers don’t stay relevant for too long (a factor in possibly encouraging fresh and new purchases). In this regard though, as tempting a conclusion as this might be, I doubt it’s the case. – Profit margins on printers are, generally speaking, razor thin. In fact, in the majority of general consumer models, printers are more typically sold at a loss (with money being recouped through ink sales).

Yes, as crazy as it might sound, I think Epson is probably being honest that this is something of a ‘safety’ feature to prevent anything going incredibly wrong. They’re not, after all, going to want masses of civil cases over people suing for new desks, carpeting, and probably a Monet and Picasso they just happened to have sitting next to their printer.

More than anything though, the issue is that there isn’t any way for consumers to know how long their printer should last, and more importantly, how long it has to go. If Epson perhaps was a little more open about this, it would perhaps be enough to resolve the problem for many.

What do you think though? – Let us know in the comments!

Mike Sanders

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