If you use an inkjet printer on a regular basis, probably one of the most loathed aspects of ownership is replacing the ink cartridges when they run out. While the initial purchase price of an inkjet printer is relatively low in the grand scheme of things, the cost of the replacement ink cartridges can often be astronomical.
Take for example the Hewlett-Packard Envy 4520, the best-selling inkjet printer on Amazon. The printer costs $69.99, however, where HP gets you is with the cost of replacement ink. For example, the replacement HP 63XL tri-color high yield ink cartridge costs $31.99, while the complementary high yield black cartridge is $31.97. If you go the remanufactured cartridge route, you can get one of each (tri-color, black) for a grand total of $25.77.
So we're talking $63.96 versus $25.77 for replacement ink — now you can see why people go the remanufactured route and why the market for third-party manufacturers in this space is huge. HP of course wants to protect its highly lucrative ink revenue stream, and it’s looking to keep its customers tied into its ecosystem.
Usually, these protective measures on the part of printer manufacturers comes in the form of putting up warning screens when a non-genuine ink cartridge is placed in a machine. The screens will warn that using a remanufactured cartridge can potentially damage your printer, but more often than not will allow you to continue printing.
HP, on the other hand, is allegedly using a rather destructive method to prevent customers from using remanufactured ink cartridges. The company reportedly preprogrammed a date into its printers to display a message informing customers that their non-genuine ink cartridges were damaged. Specifically, the message reads:
The following ink cartridges appears to be missing or damages.
Replace the ink cartridges to resume printing.
If the objective is to get people to abandon the use of non-genuine/remanufactured ink cartridges, HP could have a used a subtler approach. Instead of using a randomly generated date to “fake” a failure, HP choose preprogrammed September 13th into the most recent firmware updates for its printers. So on that date, scores of HP customers at the same time began complaining about the same problem. Nice.
Because of this sudden influx of complaints, it didn’t take long to trace the “failures” to a HP firmware update that was released during the spring. HP’s support forums are flooded with complaints from customers that have received the warning and at least one reseller of remanufactured cartridges was also inundated with its own customer complaints.
According to Dutch retailer 123inkt, customers appear to be trapped for now, and will need to use genuine cartridges until the suppliers of remanufactured cartridges can reprogram their chips to get around the error message. This might take some time, which is really of no consolation to the thousands, if not millions of customers that are currently affected by this issue.