Customer Files Class-Action Suit Against HP & Staples, Charging Printer Ink Price Collusion

Ranjit Bedi, a Californian, has filed a lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard and Staples in a U.S. District Court in Boston, accusing the two companies of colluding to prevent the sale of third-party ink cartridges in Staples stores. Bedi is accusing HP of paying Staples over $100 million to get it to stop selling lower-priced ink refills, but none of the news sources we found supply any evidence to support that figure, so we hope Bedi has more than just a gut feeling about this.

HP and Staples won’t comment on the lawsuit right now while they’re reviewing it, but CMP, a marketing company for the technology industry, contacted various partners of Hewlett-Packard to get their opinions. One HP partner told them he wouldn’t be surprised if an agreement existed:

That is how big box retailers can make their money [selling products like printer supplies], by sometimes selling at ridiculously low prices. I can’t beat those prices. The only way I can make money is through services. In turn, Staples probably has an agreement with HP to sell a certain amounts of cartridges.

However, another HP partner told CMP that “he doubted HP would enter into such an agreement, but said Staples might have acted on its own to favor HP.”

“I have a hard time believing HP paid Staples market development funds because of the way the industry works,” Senecal said. “HP does not permit use of market development funds for discounting products. HP states throughout their market development program that market development funds can’t be used for discounting products. I don’t believe they would make a whole separate agreement with Staples from the entire channel.”

Seneca said it is possible Staples is acting on its own to further sales of HP printing products. “I’m sure Staples is trying to differentiate itself as a reseller of HP by being more attuned to the HP product line.”

“$8,000-per-gallon printer ink leads to antitrust lawsuit” [ArsTechnica]
“HP, Staples Antitrust Lawsuit Focuses On Market Development Funds” [CRN/CMP]

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