Consumers who have bought a printer for personal or home office use understand, or learn quickly, that buying replacement ink or a toner cartridge is not cheap.
Oftentimes, the replacement product is more expensive than the printer, which has some consumers opting just to buy a new printer instead.
Rep. Lee Zachary, a Republican legislator representing Forsyth and Yadkin counties, can feel your frustration.
Zachary’s irritation at learning that a replacement toner cartridge was 25% more expensive than the printer he recently purchased prompted him to file House Bill 379.
The bill would require printer packaging to disclose potential costs for replacement ink or toner cartridges.
It also would require the package to estimate the number of printed pages an ink or toner cartridge would print before requiring replacement.
“No person, firm, or corporation engaged in commerce shall offer for sale a computer printer without clearly and prominently disclosing the additional costs related to operating the printer,” according to the bill.
Failure to include those costs in the package would be considered as “an unfair trade practice” under state law and “subject to all of the enforcement and penalty provisions of this article.”
The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, would go into effect Oct. 1.
Zachary said when discussing HB379 before the House Judiciary 3 committee on Wednesday that “there’s a lot about these printers they don’t tell you when you buy them,” Zachary said.
Zachary told the Winston-Salem Journal that "this bill doesn’t help me. I’ve lived and learned."
"I just feel that the public is entitled to this disclosure to make an informed decision. The tag on the display can tell you how many pages per minute it prints and other information.
"Why can’t it tell you the cost of replacement toner," Zachary asked? "It’s not like they don’t know because they sell the replacement toner."
Although some committee members said they sympathized with Zachary, they questioned whether legislation requiring pricing disclosures was the right route to take.
Although Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, is a co-sponsor of HB379, he expressed concerns during the meeting that the bill could open a “can of worms” when it comes to product packaging overall.
“I see your intent, but I think it’s overreach,” Faircloth was quoted as saying to Zachary by online legislative media outlet NC Insider.
The committee took an unusual approach of recommending HB379 to the House Commerce committee “without prejudice” rather than by the usual “favorable report” approval.
Without prejudice typically is a legal term that signified ending a lawsuit, but allowing it to be refiled.
Because HB379 was allowed to advance, it gives Zachary and other bill sponsors the opportunity to make changes before it is addressed in Commerce.