Lincoln Han
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High-quality counterfeit printer toner cartridge

December 2015

In August 2015, I was in need of a replacement toner cartridge for my Canon laser printer. The cartridge model is FX-10. It was not easy to find this model as it is not very commonly sold. The stores did not have it and many web sites in Italy did not carry it in stock, including Amazon. Although eBay is not my preferred source for this type of purchase, I happen to find one there. The price is comparable to the market price, and the seller has many good feedbacks and stated it is “original and genuine” Canon product. I have no reason to suspect otherwise, and made the purchase. However, soon after I received the product, I discovered that even from a seemingly reputable seller, eBay is a place fraught with counterfeit products.

I would have not discovered the true nature of this product I purchased had it not been for the three problems I experienced: 1. After printing more than 20 to 30 pages, the paper will often jam, especially when handling A5 size; 2. The toner developed a defect in on one narrow side of the page which leaves a thick line over the printed matter; 3. The seller did not follow through with his guarantee of remedy.

After I paid for the cartridge, the seller quickly mailed it by registered mail. When I received it, the first thing I noticed was the printing on the box. The fonts have “bleeding”. I thought it is strange because Canon is a company known for its imaging excellence, to use less than sharp font printing on a laser toner cartridge box seems mismatched. However, with the current trend of using eco-friendly soy ink in product packaging, perhaps that may contribute to such quality of printing.

I took the toner out of the air bubble shell, and tried to remove a protective plastic strip over the toner roller. It was supposed to be easy; however, toward the end of the strip it became very difficult to pull out. I had to exert force to tear it out. At this point, I had second thought about the quality of its production. I imagined a Japanese company like Canon would hardly design something this poorly.
Now I am ready to test it in my printer. I put it in the printer and the printer initialized well. I printed some test pages and they turned out well. Because the seller quick to ship and the cartridge is functional, I decided to post a positive feedback on eBay. It turned out I was quick to judge.

After few days, I had to print some flyers on A5 paper. Soon I ran into problems. The printer would jam after printing 20 to 30 pages, and even after I remove the paper, it would continue to jam on the next printing. I had to remove the cartridge to retrieve the jammed paper. Curiously, I decided to try printing with my old toner cartridge, which came with the printer when I bought it and still had some toner left inside. When I switched to the old toner, there would be no paper jam for similar amount of pages. When I used the new toner cartridge, the printer would jam after similar amount of printing.

In addition, on a full size A4 or Letter paper, near one narrow side of the paper, would appear a thick blurry white gap line. It happened with text documents and images. The only way to avoid this is to set the printing top margin to a high value to completely avoid printing there.

I thought the quality control of Canon’s product must be quite poor to have such defective cartridge on the market. I contacted the seller with a description of the problems and he agreed to exchange it for me. However, he did not follow up with any details. I tried to contact him again a week later and never received a response.

My suspicion begins to surface at this point, considering the performance of this cartridge, its poor printing on the box and the difficulty removing the protective tape on it, they all lead me to have doubt about its authenticity.

So I contact Canon Europe headquarter counterfeit department. Few weeks later, they responded requesting some photos, especially showing the hologram on the packaging. I sent them the photos. They responded saying that they will need to get the actual product because the authenticity is difficult to determine from just the photos I sent. Therefore, I decided to investigate this thoroughly and went to the post office to mail it to Canon in the U. K.  

Few weeks passed, and I received an email with a letter attached from Canon Europe. In this official letter, it stated “After examining, we can confirm that this product is likely to be refilled genuine Toner Cartridge in counterfeit package. Accordingly, Canon considers the product to be a counterfeit product and the advertising and sale of this product on eBay amounts to a trademark infringement...”

So there is the irrefutable proof from the manufacturer itself that the seller has falsely advertised about the authenticity of this cartridge selling it as a new and original Canon product. With this information, I confronted the seller again, and this time he responded insisting that he only sells genuine products. Even after I sent him a copy of the letter from Canon, he still denies selling me a counterfeit. He offered to issue me a refund, but I have to pay to send the cartridge back to him. I told him that the cartridge is still with Canon at the time and I don’t have it. However, he must compensate me for the product and the troubles that I encountered using it and investigating its authenticity. We emailed back and forth and he did not refund me at the end.

Unfortunately, it was past the deadline for me to file a complaint to eBay or Paypal. So I had to contact my credit card company directly to file a chargeback. Paypal then contacted me and opened a case. Yet two months later, they sided with the seller, despite the fact that in the mean time, Canon filed a formal complaint again the seller on eBay for trademark violation and eBay removed the seller’s original listing. Despite of eBay and Paypal’s useless buyer protection, thank to my Discover card, Discover made sure that I got reimbursed.

Initially, I had given the seller benefit of the doubt as he has a small business and may not be aware that his distributor had sold him unintentionally counterfeit products. This is plausible because today some channels, especially grey market, are tainted with high quality counterfeits that only experts can determine. So distributor can get them and selling them to resellers, and none of them the wiser. However, with each communication exchange and more evidence presented to the seller, and his continuous denial in words and remedy, made me believe that he knew about it. Furthermore, he continued to sell the same item as “original” despite the fact eBay removed his listing after Canon’s complaint.

As a public service, I would like to publish the identify of this seller who continues to sell the same counterfeit product months after the fact that I notified him of this problem and eBay removed his original listing for trademark violation.

Vomera Group
Michele Vomera
Contrada San Fili
89020 Melicucco, Reggio Calabria

Telephone: 0966902635
Fax: 09661940100

In Italy, I have the choice of going to either the Guardia di Finanza (Financial Police) or the Polizia Postale (Postal Police). However, the punishment is very light on the seller for such small violation.
As a result of this problem, I am now more informed about the wide sales of counterfeit printer consumables, which did not really exist in such scale ten years ago. I also bought the same type of cartridge from Amazon, and this time it is genuine. Here are some key differences demonstrated below, and I wish it would be helpful to other people.

Comparison of the counterfeit and genuine Canon FX-10 toner cartridges:

The front of the boxes appears to be similar. Upon closer inspect look, one can notice some differences: The counterfeit packaging has “Monochrome Laser Cartridge” in the center, followed by “Trust for the Heart of Printing” on the next line. Instead, the genuine package has “Quality Input, Quality Output” printed in smaller font, followed by “Monochrome Laser Cartridge” the next line. In the lower right corner, the models are also different. The most telling part is the quality of the printing. Upon closer inspection, you can see the fonts on the counterfeit package bleed into the paper and is not sharp like the printing on the authentic Canon package.

Comparison of the counterfeit and genuine Canon FX-10 toner cartridges: box front

Comparison of the counterfeit and genuine Canon FX-10 toner cartridges: box printing quality

On the back of the boxes, they also differ in some details, such as the various logos on the right corner, and place of manufacture. This model should be made in Japan.

Counterfeit Canon cartridge box back
Counterfeit box back

Real Canon cartridge box back
Genuin box back

The hologram appear different from different viewing angles, but both were good quality and difficult to rely as the sole factor to determine the product’s authenticity in this case.

Comparison of the counterfeit and genuine Canon FX-10 toner cartridges: holograms

Once you open the box and take out the cartridges, they both come inside a protective air bag call “Air Shell”. On the real Air Shell the word “Canon” is printed sharply on the plastic and cannot be scratched off easily. On the fake Air Shell, the printing is easily scratched off, and they come off even without scratching.

Fake Canon Air Shell
Fake Canon Air Shell

Real Canon Air Shell
Real Canon Air Shell

After taking the cartridges out of the protective shells, you have to remove an orange color protective tape film from a slot on one side. From the counterfeit cartridge, it was very difficult to remove and left a piece inside. Instead, it was effortless to do on the genuine cartridge.

 Real vs. fake Canon laser toner cartridge protective film tape

When it comes to printing, initially, the counterfeit cartridge printed without problem. When printing at medium volume continuously (20 to 30 pages), paper jam became frequent and toner loss was frequent.

Counterfeit Canon catridge loses toner, causes paper jam 
The counterfeit cartridge causes toner loss and paper jam

In today’s market, even sophisticated consumers can fall victim to counterfeit products. I have been involved in the IT business for many years and this is the first time that I bought a counterfeit toner cartridge unwittingly. Most economical non-original cartridges are sold as thirty-party brand or explicitly refills, so people know what they are buying. It seems there is an increasing practice of selling through gray channel very good imitation counterfeits as the genuine, at the price of genuine products. To avoid this, it is even more important to buy this type of product from an official reseller who purchases its products from a reliable source.