Counterfeit print consumables: short term gain, long term pain

Immediate cost savings can mean bigger long-term problems for consumers

In April this year, print vendor Kyocera Document Solutions revealed it had seized fraudulent goods worth in excess of 5m during that month alone, the start of its financial year compared to the previous financial year where more than 100,000 units, worth in excess of 10m, were seized. 

Looking at this, it's easy to conclude that the market for counterfeit or grey' goods is booming. 

The grey market generally refers to when products destined for certain countries are diverted to countries where they are not licensed, and whilst this is not illegal, the legitimacy of the product cannot be guaranteed. 

Also, the distribution and sale of counterfeit goods is a criminal offence, and is often linked criminal activity.

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Indeed, demand for print consumables such as ink and toner has caused a spike in the number of counterfeit products currently hitting the market. In response, Kyocera recently launched a campaign to educate consumers about the risks of buying counterfeit gear. The company described "a concerning rise in the scale of the problem" of such products flooding the market.

For customers, the temptation to buy less expensive alternatives to the printer manufacturer's own toner and ink cartridges is always present. While this can seem like a good idea at the time of purchase, as a customer you can end paying much a higher price further down the line.

On a basic level, using products that don't legitimately come from the manufacturer can result in a drop in print quality; common problems include streaky grey backgrounds, drop off and even ghosting on the page where bits of the previous page appear on the current page.

More serious and costly to you as a consumer, is the risk of damaging your printer or multi-function device (MDF). Non-genuine toner or ink damages good-quality printing products and reduces the overall yield of the machine. This means that the total cost of ownership of the device is increased, offsetting any short-term benefits of the cheap toner.

In addition, using grey market goods could invalidate the manufacturer's warranty, meaning if your machine breaks which it may well do using counterfeit consumables you have no comeback.

"Counterfeit imaging supplies are often dangerous, environmentally unfriendly and cheat consumers of the quality they are entitled to expect from branded consumables," comments Jonathan Robbins, consumables & spares sales manager at Kyocera. "It's time to take the fight to the criminals, and stand up for resellers and businesses who are being duped into buying sub-standard products, often in good faith, by increasingly organised criminals."

"We're asking businesses to only buy from an approved Kyocera consumables partner or run the risk of supporting organised crime and trafficking gangs. Counterfeit products are increasingly hard to spot, so we would recommend resellers and customers are suspicious of consumables that do not have Kyocera labelling or an unrealistically low price. If in doubt, our team is available to answer any questions or verify suspect products."

Research supports Robbins' statement that counterfeit products are often difficult to identify a recent report from analyst firm Context claims only 15 percent of customers are able to identify grey market goods. As a result, there are calls from retailers and print dealers for manufacturers to provide better labelling of their products.

The Imaging Consumables Coalition of Europe, Middle East and Africa (ICCE), a non-profit making organisation comprising the leading print manufacturers, was formed as a direct response to the increase in counterfeit consumables across the region. Its activities include coordinating intelligence, initiating joint industry raids and helping its members to pursue counterfeiters through the criminal and civil courts.

The ICCE offers print customers this advice for checking whether they have purchased counterfeit products:

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Check the product and packaging: Is it identical to the branded goods you have used before? Does the toner or ink cartridge deliver the same level of performance and print quality you are used to from branded products? Do you get Error messages on your printer, unnecessary paper jams or leakage inside your printer?

Check the price: If the price is significantly lower than what you might usually pay for a genuine consumable, then you could be dealing with counterfeit products.

Check the source: Genuine imaging supplies are sold only through authorised resellers, either through their premises or on-line. You can check the authenticity of these outlets on the original manufacturer's websites.

If you have any suspicions about the source, price or quality of the imaging supplies you intend to purchase or may have purchased then contact ICCE.

Summing up, as a customer, any short-term gains of buying counterfeit goods are likely to be outweighed in the long-run.

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