The European Union is investigating allegations of anti-competitive practices in the sale of printer ink cartridges.
Companies such as Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, Canon and Epson are in the spotlight for using allegedly illegal tactics to force consumers to buy own-brand cartridges instead of cut price refills.
Under European law, companies cannot use their strong position in one market to restrict competition in another, and can be fined up to 10 per cent of turnover.
The action apparently follows complaints from angry consumers who have been saddled with the high cost of cartridges. An 'official' printer cartridge can cost nearly double that of a refill or 'unnamed' brand.
The printer companies claim that they have been forced to increase charges to make up for the huge inroads the refill market has made into their industry.
It has been estimated that 11 per cent of the ink cartridge market is now controlled by the refill vendors.
An EU spokesman said that it is concerned about the difference in prices and had decided to launch an investigation.
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