The Reins Are Being Tightened on Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe

What this means for consumers and the future of the market

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09/20/2022

Kris Alvarez

 

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HP Europe and Brussels-based consumer advocacy organization Euroconsumers have reached a settlement agreement in the case of HP’s Dynamic Security feature. As the print giant sets aside €1.34 million in funds to compensate the affected customers, the Balearic government also has their sights set on HP—aiming to impose a financial sanction of €50,000 for having allegedly violated regional legislation enacted January 1, 2021, that barred the sale of single-use, non-rechargeable ink and toner cartridges on the islands.

 

Now, full disclosure: This isn’t all about HP per se, but more about the everyday consumer. It’s about Europe’s handling of the environmental issues that our industry specifically has a hand in, about a universal feeling of accountability, and about the ever-growing importance of choice in the customer experience.

 

 

Consumers: A Push Toward the Head of the Table
The level of information and its availability to the average consumer is leaps and bounds greater today than it was years ago, with the rate of accessibility growing further over time. Consumers have long realized the degree of control and customization they can get from a given customer experience based on these advantages alone. All the while, maintaining competitive advantages against their contenders through their products is only half the battle for companies across a myriad of industries looking to better connect with customers. Nonetheless, the rules of the game will continue to lean toward the consumer as organizations have to be adaptable to maintain their customer base.


Circling back to the settlement. While its clear consumers felt tricked by an alleged “deceptive practice,” the issue also surrounds this sense of stripped control from the consumer. It’s two-fold, really. For one, if a customer purchases a printer outright, it’s likely they expect to be in absolute control of the device with no real performance limiters to worry about—not to mention compatibility of non-OEM supplies is a purchasing decision of growing importance. Second, consumers are becoming increasingly more cognizant of their own level of involvement in creating a more sustainable printing process. And whether it means using OEM supplies exclusively or throwing in a non-OEM cartridge in your device once every blue moon, it’s the ability to choose their level of involvement and how they choose to be involved that holds weight in the customer experience and fosters that sense of control the average consumer has grown accustomed to.  

 

A Case to Be Made for Remanufactured for the Sake of the Consumer
Seeing as a member of the European Union has set forth a ban on single-use plastics, which make up roughly 70% of their marine litter, it begs the question of how such legislation begins to bleed into our industry—more specifically through supplies. Many OEMs already commit to sustainable development goals, which address the challenges behind sourcing raw materials, energy consumption, packaging, as well as the reuse and remanufacturing of supplies. While these OEMs surely make their contributions to help reduce waste, lower energy consumption, and increase efficiency, the Balearic government’s possible sanction serves as a sort of warning shot for the industry. A large portion of the islands’ economy comes from tourism and, with most of the litter in the Mediterranean Sea being plastic, it’s really no surprise the hammer is coming down. For the industry though, this could be yet another spark for other European governments to follow suit, enforcing OEMs to implement greater compatibility with non-OEM supplies.

 

Plus, greater compatibility would ensure an empowering sense of flexibility for consumers to make a potentially greater impact on their waste production and carbon footprint by using third-party remanufactured supplies. The social and environmental consciousness of the consumer is evolving to a point where they no longer look to sellers, dealers, or manufactures exclusively to understand what the ideal customer experience means to them. Is it time to give customers what they want? Well, as a consumer here, I personally stand with the majority of those who consider the customer experience to be as important as a company’s products and services. In the end, companies and consumers are people all the same, and we all want our needs to be understood at the very least, if not met.

 

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