A bug in Appleâ€™s OS X printing software could see consumers unknowingly pay thousands of dollars extra in printing bills. The bug causes some black and white documents to be billed as colour documents by an attached printer. Businesses on a commercial printing plan will be potentially paying thousands of dollars extra in printing bills.
The bug causes some black and white documents to be billed as colour documents by an attached printer.
I recently set up a new printer for our church. The contract price was 0.6 cents per black and white print and 6 cents per colour print. Due to the bug in Apple’s software our black and white prints were mistakenly billed as colour resulting in our church paying $200 per month more than what it should have. Fuji Xerox refused to refund the overcharged pages claiming the problem was with Apple’s software.
If you are on a printing contract where you pay per copy or if you have ever taken a document to a commercial printer to be printed you could be paying extra due to this bug. A company that prints 10,000 greyscale pages per month on a similarly priced contract would be paying $6480 per year over and above what they should be due to the billing issue.
Software confirmed to be affected: Apple Pages. Apple Preview.
How I discovered the problem.
I discovered this when our Church signed up for a printer contract with Fuji-Xerox earlier this year. The first bill came in a little high. So I did some tests and discovered that greyscale documents were being counted by the printer toward the colour copy count. The page was black and white but the colour page count on the printer was incrementing as each page was printed.
I assumed this was a problem with the printer so I set up a service call with our local Fuji Xerox service agents. They were very surprised and spent 2 hours running some tests. They sent various combinations of documents to the printer from Microsoft Word, Pages, Preview and Acrobat Acrobat Reader. They also tried using different printer drivers. The Xerox engineer concluded that it was a problem with the OSX printing software and encouraged me to chase it up with Apple Support.
My first thought was that there was some hidden colour information in the page. For example, you can have a document that looks grey but contains trace amounts of Cyan, Magenta or Yellow. I confirmed that the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow were set to 0%. The document still counted as a colour page.
The Xerox engineer concluded that it was a problem with the OSX printing software and encouraged me to chase it up with Apple Support.
I contacted Apple Support about the issue. (This was back in February). At first, they didn’t believe it. They thought it was a problem with my settings. But after an hour on support and some screen sharing, I was able to convince Apple Support of the problem. The support personnel were surprised and the case was promptly escalated to the engineering team.
A month later Apple support rang me back and this time they took me through a comprehensive data gathering exercise. They screen shared my computer and uploaded some data logging software called ‘Capture Data’ which captured all my print logs as I printed. I also had to do a screen recording showing the black and white print that was logging as a colour print on the Fuji Xerox printer. They then sent the information away for their engineers to work on.
It’s now a month later and Apple are still working on the problem.
When a pure greyscale document is printed from Apple OSX the Apple print driver includes some colour information in the document. This means that the printer charges it at colour rates, even though it is a greyscale document.
Our printing contract is 0.6c for a black and white print and 6c for colour. So this bug means our printing costs for greyscale documents are 10 times what they should be. Each month Apple takes to fix this bug costs our church $200, but larger organisations could be carrying inflated printing costs that are significantly higher.
The big can be reproduced as follows:
- Open a Pages document, type anything, and set the colour of that text to 50% black using the greyscale slider. Print the document. The greyscale documents will count (and so be billed) as colour on a Fuji Xerox Printer. Do exactly the same process from Microsoft Word and the document will be counted as black and white by the printer.
- Open a greyscale pdf document in Apple Preview and print it. It will count as colour on a Fuji Xerox Printer. Exactly the same document printed from Adobe Acrobat Reader will count as black and white.
It is my belief that this is not a printer specific problem. So if you are on a printing contract and you are printing greyscale documents (for example a page of black and white text with a greyscale heading in it) you could be paying colour rates for black and white prints.
Our black and white prints were counted as colour resulting in our church being overbilled by $200 per month.
Until Apple fixes this bug here are some temporary work arounds. (Any one of these will work).
- Remove any greyscale from your document and just use 100% black.
- Stop using Apple Pages and instead use Microsoft Word.
- Select ‘Black and White’ from the printer dialog box (but this means that none of your pages will be able to use colour in a mixed document).
- Print the document as a pdf, open in Adobe Acrobat Pro, remove the colour pages, convert the document to greyscale using a pre-press filter, add the colour pages back in, and then print the pdf document from Adobe Acrobat.
Bug raised with Apple Support on 2nd February 2019.
Still awaiting a fix.
I’ll keep you updated if Apple gets back to me.