HP pays off in another comparison via ink cartridge DRM

A hot potato: Printer cartridges have long been notoriously expensive, and printer manufacturers use DRM to discourage users from buying cheaper third-party versions. HP still pays its customers bills for how it provided its DRM years ago, but the practice shows no signs of them ending anytime soon.

Consumer group Euroconsumers recently reached an agreement with HP in which the printer maker will pay up to $1.35 million to customers in four European countries for enforcing DRM on ink cartridges in 2016. HP has already agreed to similar payouts to customers on other continents.

The problems began when a firmware update for some HP printers caused them to reject non-HP ink cartridges, identified by the lack of HP’s DRM chips. The DRM can also determine if a used HP cartridge has been refilled. Third party ink is usually cheaper than “official” cartridges from printer companies that work on a razor model to recoup the cost of selling cheap printers.

Claims against HP emerged because many users were unaware of the DRM until their cartridges stopped working. HP apologized and first removed the DRM. However, it resurfaced in 2017 and HP continues to sell printers with DRM.

The company had to compensate Users in Australia about the surprise DRM in 2018, paying AU$50 each for a total of likely over AU$100,000. A US class action lawsuit accused HP of “Sneaky” Tactics and Anti-Competitive Behavior in 2020.

The Euroconsumers agreement lets customers in Belgium, Italy, Spain and Portugal obsessed certain HP printers between September 1, 2016 and November 17, 2020 will receive compensation of up to €95. Customers must submit a claim before March 6, 2023 with a possible three-month extension.

Canon uses similar methods to force its cartridges onto users of its printers. As an unintended side effect of the pandemic shocks in the supply chain, the company was unable to manufacture enough DRM chips for its cartridges, forcing it to let customers bypass DRM in January.

Ink cartridge DRM is likely to stick around for the long haul despite the comparisons. To avoid further allegations of fraud, HP is now more open about its DRM, describe it in the fine print on product pages and frequently asked Questions.

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