How cheap ink cartridges can cost you dear | consumer affairs

TThe Hewlett-Packard printer owner has vowed never to buy from the company again after a “firmware update” rendered his $150 printer unusable after he bought cheaper ink cartridges from another manufacturer.

Dom Smith, who works in IT in the Netherlands but is originally from the UK, was outraged after a recent software update rendered the HP OfficeJet Pro 8020 printer he bought during the lockdown unusable.

He’s just the latest to complain about the problem plaguing HP printer owners who have balked at the price of their own-brand ink cartridges.

For several years, HP has used firmware updates to prevent the use of “counterfeit” ink cartridges that they claim infringe their copyright. The policy has put the company on a collision course with buyers and led to a series of lawsuits.

In 2018, HP agreed to pay $1.5 million (£1.1 million) to US customers, and the company is facing another class action lawsuit from people claiming it was a firmware update been made by them Printers that are not compatible with other brands of ink cartridges.

Smith, who paid more than £150 for his printer, said he was quoted a “crazy” price to buy a full set of replacement HP ink cartridges, so he bought cheaper aftermarket ink cartridges, which worked fine until the update.

“As a result, I couldn’t print anything. I’m so pissed off that I’d rather scrap my perfectly fine 8020 and almost full of ink than be pressured by HP into buying their products,” he says.

“I can’t believe this is even legal. Once I’ve paid for the printer, I’m sure it can do whatever I want. I would strongly advise others with HP printers to change the settings to stop accepting firmware updates and this won’t happen to them.”

Max Freeman, commercial director of the Crewe-based supplier Cartridgepeople.comsays most consumers are unaware that a printer manufacturer can prevent them from using third-party ink.

He agrees with Smith that there is little for consumers to gain by allowing the HP updates, provided you have the technical skills to prevent them.

HP says it includes “dynamic security to protect the quality of our customer experience, protect HP intellectual property, and reduce illegal HP cartridge counterfeiting and warranty fraud.” Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AP

“It was a long fought battle. However, I urge users not to be put off by using third-party cartridges, and many will still work – provided they keep the original HP chip.”

He says companies like his are careful to use recycled or remanufactured cartridges that “bridge” a firmware update.

His company offers a lifetime guarantee on its cartridges and promises a refund if a software update renders a customer’s printer inoperable. It encourages the recycling of original HP empty devices because they continue to work after refurbishment and all firmware upgrades are submitted later.

A spokesman for HP says: HP incorporates dynamic security to protect the quality of our customer experience, protect HP intellectual property, and reduce illegal HP cartridge counterfeiting and warranty fraud.

“Refilled or remanufactured consumables that use an original HP chip will continue to function normally. Other cartridges, including those using cloned chips or modified or non-HP circuitry, may not work now or in the future.”

They said the company offers a range of options for customers, including HP Instant Ink, which can save UK customers up to 70%.

However, this was not enough to convince Smith. He says his printer had a 70% discount sticker, but the website didn’t allow him to register. He has since bought a new printer from another company and says he will not buy another HP product.

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