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Article France: Advocacy Group Files Criminal Complaint Against Alleged Planned Obsolescence Practices

(Nov. 1, 2017) An advocacy group in France has filed a criminal complaint against several manufacturers of computer printers, including Epson, HP, and Canon, for selling products allegedly designed with a planned obsolescence. (Isabelle de Foucaud, Obsolescence programmée: une plainte déposée contre des fabricants d’imprimantes [Planned Obsolescence: Lawsuit Filed Against Printer Manufacturers], LE FIGARO (Sept. 21, 2017).)

Planned obsolescence, the practice of intentionally designing products with a shorter lifespan to force consumers to replace them more often, was made illegal in France in 2015. (Loi n° 2015-992 du 17 août 2015 relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte [Law No. 2015-992 of 17 August 2015 Regarding the Transition to Energy for Green Economic Growth], art. 99, LEGIFRANCE.) Anyone who deliberately attempts to limit the lifespan of a product that they bring to market may be punished with up to two years of imprisonment, and/or a fine of €300,000 (about US$352,500), or a fine equivalent to up to 5% of the average annual revenue over the previous three years. (Id.; Code de la Consommation [Consumer Code] (version consolidated Oct. 6, 2017), arts. L441-2, L454-6, LEGIFRANCE.)

The complaint, brought by an advocacy group called Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (Stop Planned Obsolescence) (HOP), is believed to be the first such action in France. (de Foucaud, supra; Plainte au Procureur de la République [Complaint to the Prosecutor] (Sept. 17, 2018) available at HOP website.) The complaint alleges that several printer manufacturers use techniques to lower the lifespan of printer cartridges, for example by including less ink than the cartridge could contain, by using microchips that indicate that the cartridge is empty (and blocking further print jobs) when in fact it is not, and by designing their hardware and software to prevent or discourage the use of off-brand cartridges.  (Id.)

It is now up to the Prosecutor of Nanterre, where the complaint was filed, to decide whether or not to pursue this case. (de Foucaud, supra.)  HOP states that should the Prosecutor’s Office decide to drop the case, it would then attempt to initiate legal action via another type of procedure. (Id.) According to some commentators, the principal difficulty in successfully prosecuting this case is to show that the efforts to shorten the printer cartridges’ lifespan were intentional. (Aurélie Delmas, Obsolescence programmée: qu’attendre de la première plainte déposée en France? [Planned Obsolescence: What to Expect from the First Complaint Filed in France ?], LIBERATION (Sept. 19, 2017).)

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Chicago citation style:

Boring, Nicolas. France: Advocacy Group Files Criminal Complaint Against Alleged Planned Obsolescence Practices. 2017. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2017-11-01/france-advocacy-group-files-criminal-complaint-against-alleged-planned-obsolescence-practices/.

APA citation style:

Boring, N. (2017) France: Advocacy Group Files Criminal Complaint Against Alleged Planned Obsolescence Practices. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2017-11-01/france-advocacy-group-files-criminal-complaint-against-alleged-planned-obsolescence-practices/.

MLA citation style:

Boring, Nicolas. France: Advocacy Group Files Criminal Complaint Against Alleged Planned Obsolescence Practices. 2017. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2017-11-01/france-advocacy-group-files-criminal-complaint-against-alleged-planned-obsolescence-practices/>.