Has your HP printer started warning you about a ‘problem cartridge’? Reports suggest a software update to selected HP printers means they now work only with official, HP-chipped, ink cartridges.
HP claims that it’s protecting its ‘intellectual property’. But we know from our research that switching to third-party ink can save you serious money.
As this move could unfairly limit consumer choice, we’re investigating further with our international consumer research partners to understand the scale of the problem.
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Update (29 September) – HP apologises, announces action
Since we published this story, HP has released a blog post apologising to affected customers for the situation.
HP chief operating officer, Jon Flaxman, said that it was down to a ‘dynamic security’ feature in selected printers intended to combat “counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP”.
However, he confirmed that the company would release an optional firmware update within the next two weeks that will “remove the dynamic security feature” from HP printers.
“We will continue to use security features to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working,” said Flaxman.
“However, we commit to improving our communication so that customers understand our concerns about cloned and counterfeit supplies. Again, to our loyal customers who were affected, we apologise.”
We will be testing whether this firmware when available does in deed remove the dynamic security feature and allow owners to continue to use all compatible third-party inks with their HP printers.
HP printers say ‘no’
The issue was originally flagged by a Dutch printer ink supplier, 123inkt. It claimed that it had received over 1,000 complaints from customers over their HP printers rejecting certain cartridges.
123inkt told Which?’s Dutch consumer organisation equivalent, Consumentenbond, that a software change had been made by HP in March. This was activated on Tuesday, 13 September via a firmware update.
Following this update, HP printer owners using third-party cartridges reportedly saw error messages. These included ‘Problem Cartridge’ and ‘One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove the cartridge and replace them with new cartridges’.
Defending its cartridges, 123inkt stated, ‘The brand cartridges are not damaged, but HP manipulates your printer making it no more accept private label cartridges.’
‘Tests which we have now done on older printers appears that there is nothing wrong with the cartridges and that [when they’re used] in another printer… just trouble-free printing.’
An update too far?
The firmware update has reportedly affected HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X printers. We are now seeking to confirm which ranges are affected in our printers test lab.
Find out how we test printers for ink usage – how Which? tests printers
HP declined to comment on the timing of the latest firmware update. But it did confirm in a statement that its purpose was to ‘protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property’.
“These printers will continue to work with refilled or re-manufactured cartridges with an Original HP security chip. Other cartridges may not function,” it added.
“In many cases this functionality was installed in the HP printer and in some cases it has been implemented as part of an update to the printer’s firmware.”
HP’s official ink cartridges are significantly more expensive than some third-party brands. In our most recent ink survey, customers rated HP poorly for value for money.
You can save up to 80% by using third party inks or toners compared to branded ones, so it’s well worth shopping around. We are looking into this further to see what impact such a move could have on consumers.
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