Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The End of This Story

Hey folks, sorry for the lack of updates - even though I don't think I have any followers! I've been pursuing this initiative since last October and unfortunately, I've run out of steam. I'm making this last post an "official" end to my mini-crusade. 

Before I close off, I want to mention that I've since received two more letters from Lexmark - another response (identical to the previous letter) from Edward Russo in Kentucky (US customer support). I've also received a letter from Tim Emens, President of Lexmark Canada, signed in what appears to be real ink! Unfortuantely, the text was copied word-for-word from the other letters. I imagine the company receives just enough complaints about the forensic dot technology that they've just standardized their response. 

Mr. Emens' letter mentions a name and customer support line for Canada specifically - Suzanne Deland, reachable at 905-763-5544. If I would like to return my printer, she is the one that I am supposed to talk to. A quick Google search doesn't turn up that number, so it's probably a secret executive customer support line! 

I am not going to take Lexmark up on their offer to refund the full purchase price of my printer. The reality is that while the overall issue of privacy of yellow tracking dots still concerns me, I was never fearful of being personally monitored via this technology. I was never dissatisfied with the printer itself, and I fear the process is more time that I can commit at this point. I'm tempted to call and swindle some free toner, but I no longer have the time to commmit to this issue! 

I am happy, however, that I jumped through all of these hoops and produced some consumer-centred documentation on how to pursue manufacturers (or at very least, Lexmark) if you are dissatisfied with the forensic dot technology. 

It's my hope that people can find these pages useful, and that during my five-month consumer rights crusade I contributed something useful to this particular issue. 

Here's a short summary of my most useful learnings:
  1. ALL Lexmark colour laser printers have this tracking dot technology. It's probably accurate to say that any modern colour laser printer you buy will have it as well. 
  2. You CANNOT disable this technology, at least not by any practical means. It's deeply embedded in the hardware of the printer, don't bother trying! 
  3. Entry-level tech support does NOT know that this technology exists. Don't even try to get help from them, though you may end up with free photoconductor
  4. Lexmark Canada and Lexmark International (based in the USA) both have Privacy Offices: 
    Privacy Mailbox
    740 West New Circle Road
    Lexington, Kentucky 40550

    Attention: Privacy Officer Inc.
    50 Leek Crescent
    Richmond Hill, ON
    L4B 4J3
  5. 1-800-663-7662 is a verified and often-not-published phone number for Canadian Support, according to Google it is a link to their Service Dispatch team. 
  6. Suzanne Deland in the Canadian office may be able to help you, if you call 1-905-763-5544. This number doesn't show up on Google or Yahoo. 
  7. If you are persistant, a refund of your printer is definitely possible. You just have to keep poking around until you get in touch with the right people - while I had terrible luck contacting Lexmark by phone, I had excellent luck contacting them by snail mail. 
So, that's it! Good luck with your own consumer battles, and thanks for reading! If you leave me a comment, I can and will respond to it, but I expect this to be my last post on this issue. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Response from Lexmark RECEIVED!

The Story So Far:

Persistance has paid off - I received a letter from Lexmark in the mail today. Right off the bat, I have to be honest - it's a response to my first letter, dated December 19, 2008. According to two postmarks, it looks like it got lost in the mail once or twice before it finally made its way to my house:

Here's the letter:

The text reads (emphasis added by me):

Dear Brahm, 
Thank you for your inquiry. 

Certain Lexmark color lasers, including the C530dn printer, do print manufacturer and serial number data on printed output. This technology was developed by the color copier industry nearly 20 years ago as a measure to combat the counterfeiting of currency and it continues to be used by many copier and printer companies throughout the world. We do not believe this technology violates any law or infringes any privacy rights

The technology cannot be disabled in your C530dn. We regret that you are unhappy with our product. Under the circumstances, we would be happy to provide a full refund of your purchase cost for this printer. Please contact 1-800-LEXMARK if you would like to return this printer. 

Edward Russo, Lexmark Support Specialist. 

SO. My choices are return the printer for a full refund, or keep pressing the issue. 

To me, the choice is pretty clear. Lexmark stated it pretty plainly in their letter: "you won't find a colour laser printer throughout the world without this technology". 

Though I appreciate the offer of a full refund, I still need a colour laser printer and my privacy concerns have not been adequately addressed - I'm invested in this issue for more than just my personal needs. In the eyes of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, I believe I have fair grounds to submit a complaint, which is what I will start working on in the next few days. 

I'm also going to send Edward a response and see what he meant when he said "certain Lexmark color lasers". If there is a consumer model color laser that does not print forensic tracking dots, I would be much happier with an exchange, and that information would be great for consumers to have. 

Perhaps other Lexmark consumers would be happy with a refund after finding out that their printer is spying on them. If so, I recommend that you write a letter to:

Lexmark Intl. Inc
740W. New Circle Road
Lexington, KY  40550
NA CPD 3rd Level Support
Dept. 5040L51/004-2
C/O Ed Russo

Good luck consumers! I will keep this blog updated as I put together a new letter for Edward. Barring that, it's off to the Privacy Commissioner!  

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No response yet, follow-up letter sent to Privacy Officers, President, CFO of Lexmark

Hello friends, it's the evening of Sunday, January 11th and my consumerist cries have not been heard: Lexmark has not sent me any response to my December 3 inquiry as of this evening! 

I don't expect to receive anything tomorrow, so it is with some regret and a slight pang of excitement that I am dropping my follow-up letter in the mail tomorrow, which differs from the last letter in a few key ways:
  • I've imposed a 30-day timeline for a response;
  • I've specified that the response be sent to my address;
  • I've outlined what happens if I don't get a response - the issue goes to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
  • I've CC'd the letter to the big-wigs: The President of Lexmark Canada and its Chief Financial Officer, supposedly responsible for legal information. 
Letter (click for big):

At this point I've got to shift gears with my strategy. The fact that I'm a Canadian and that there exists a Canadian headquarters for Lexmark means that they'll be the ones who have to deal with me, not the head office in the States. I'll continue to CC their privacy officer on general letters if I have to keep sending them, but I think I have to focus on communication with the Canadian office. 

While writing letters to presidents of massive corporations is fun in its own respect, I can't lose sight of what this is all about: privacy rights! No one has the right to have the ability to track every document I print and trace it back to me. It's poor business practice to sell products to consumers that violates their right to lead a private life, especially without their knowledge or consent!

Next up: Wait 30 days, see if there's a response. If there is a response, pursue it to the fullest degree. If not, write to the Privacy Commissioner and bring this blog to the attention of as much online media sources as possible. In the interim, traffic won't really do any good. I want to give them a chance to respond before attempting to bring them into the internet spotlight.