HP printers reject cheap ink cartridges – update

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.

Printer reviews – find a Best Buy printer that doesn’t waste ink

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.

More on this

Best Buy printers – enjoy top quality printing at low costs
Best ink brands – HP, Epson, Stinkyink and more rated by their customers
Cheap printers to run – these lean machines won’t cost a fortune in ink

24 replies

    1. I need to use my home Officejet every day, so HP promising a fix in the near future is not good enough. I have thrown the printer away and purchased a Which? best buy Epson. I will never buy HP again.

    2. I went to the web sites of all the sellers of alternative inks which I have used for my HP printer in the past, but not one of them was selling the alternative inks any more so I had to purchase the genuine article. From £16 for four cartridges, to £49 for the same four. As my husband said, it will soon be cheaper to replace the printer than to buy ink!!

  1. A really clever kid may make a fortune I’d they can produce a hack to the Hp software that cancels this update.

    It is, anyway, a blatant breach of contract fit those who bought HP printers that could take any cartridge whatsoever.

    The consumer contract of sale of the printers does not say it must only use Hp cartridges.

    The update does not in any way protect the printer and now, under the Sale of Goods Act, it is no longer fit for purpose as it cannot use cheap cartridges.

    WHICH should take an appropriate test case in breach of contract or Sale of Goods or, in fact, Criminal Damage for hobbling printers in this way.

  2. I have had an HP printer for three years and it is always a problem if one fits non HP cartridges. I am going to sell the printer and go back to Canon. The HP cartridge price is extortionate – I have always bought from 3rd party suppliers and there is always a way to make them work.

  3. I’m puzzled why this issue has taken so long to come up. I wrote to Which? more than a year ago asking whether HP were breaking any consumer laws by making their printers reject third party cartridges. The reply I received assumed I’d bought faulty cartridges which was not the case. I clarified the problem insofar as my HP Officejet 6500A Plus has always from new baulked at any other than HP’s own brand- however about 3 years ago I could no longer work around the issue and had to buy the real deal extortionate HP cartridges. HP appears to have taken a very aggressive stance on this issue. My printer is years out of warranty and if I want to “jeopardise” the machine by using non HP cartridges, surely that’s my right?

  4. I have been caught by this. HP saying they will remove their warranty is one thing. Stopping my printer working is surely contrary to good practice?
    Can Which or anyone else please provide a work-round?
    And will Which please make every effort to get this reversed?

  5. I have a new Canon MG 3650 printer. My son is insistent that I should only buy Canon ink, in case the machine is damaged by compatibles, or refuses to accept them. Can anyone reassure him, and me, that this machine will work just as well with cheaper inks, please?

  6. My HP 210a has been hit by the software update, rendering the printer unusable at power up. I’ve used the same alternative cartridge supply for years without a problem until now. I eventually found a work-around to power it up and get it working. Unless HP provide an update to allow the use of alternative cartridges this printer is destined for the bin and my brand loyalty of many years to HP printers and scanners is ended, for ever!

  7. I have an HP 8615 printer, scanner, copier, fax and this update has affected me. This is my experience which I have posted on the HP Facebook page.
    I have an 8615 and replaced the coloured ink cartridges with non HP XL cartridges still keeping and using the black cartridge supplied with the printer. Everything was working great. I updated the software thinking it would give security and use improvements. OH NO, I ended up with a printer I purchased and was using which no longer PRINTS. The message came up that the Yellow and Magenta were none HP but the Cyan had a problem and therefore the printer WILL NOT PRINT. I therefore buy an XL Cyan cartridge from HP webstore, Receive it today and fit it. SURPRISE< SURPRISE now the printer will not work because the Magenta cartridge has a problem and I CAN NOT PRINT. I have now ordered a Magenta & Yellow cartridge from the HP webstore as I suspect if I replace the Magenta then the problem will move to the Yellow and I will still be UNABLE to PRINT till I replace this.
    I would like to know
    1 How HP can update software and PREVENT ME USING A WORKING PRINTER I HAVE PURCHASED AND IS MY PROPERTY
    2 Why HP stop me using my printer for so long by going thro' each printer cartridge.
    3 How HP will recompense me for the cartridges I cannot use and bought in good faith and did work till the software update, and the time I have had a NON WORKING PRINTER.
    2 Why HP stop me using my printer for so long ed by going thro' each printer cartridge.
    3 How HP will recompense me for the cartridges I bought and worked on the printer till the software was updated.
    4 How HP will recompense me for the time I have had an HP printer I purchased and they have PREVENTED me using to PRINT.
    5 If HP will be putting a warning on the software update saying "CAUTION UPDATING THE SOFTWARE WILL! WILL! STOP YOUR PRINTER WORKING FOR A LONG TIME. THIS WILL BE SHORTER IF YOU REPLACE ALL non HP CARTRIDGES AND CONSIDERABLY LONGER IF YOU RELY ON PRINTER MESSAGES WHICH WILL MAKE YOU REPLACE THEM ONE BY ONE"
    I look forward to your reply, but even more to receipt of the cartridges from your webstore so I can PRINT.

  8. Just been considering the HP action in preventing the use of non-HP cartridges and their comment regarding protecting their intellectual property etc.. They have sneakily tied this up in a so called “Security update” obviously their intention was to get users to upload it. The effect they knew about was to stop people using non-HP cartridges and be forced to use HP cartridges.
    When it happened to me it told me my Cyan was a problem (preventing the printer working) but the others were not a problem. I sent for and fitted an HP Cyan cartridge and then the problem moved to the Magenta cartridge (Yellow cartridge no problem and ink level ok), printer still not working. I sent for an HP Magenta & Yellow cartridge (I suspected what would happen). The cartridges were received and fitted, and yes as suspected the Magenta became OK but the problem moved to the Yellow. Having fitted all three colour cartridges along side the HP black cartridge already fitted allowed the printer to work at last. I have screenshots of this process.
    As it was HP’s intention to stop people using non-HP cartridges and be forced to use theirs and saying they want to protect their intellectual property why don’t they take this up with the people breaking their intellectual property (cartridge manufacturers; remanufacturers and fillers). The argument is with these not HP printer Customers who have purchased a printer to use and being their property surely have freedom to use whatever cartridges they wish.
    Is it not illegal for HP to stop me using a printer that is my property, I purchased from them, and is working.
    Is it not illegal for HP to issue software which limits my future use of my printer and restricts my choice of consumables.
    Is it not illegal for HP to knowingly issue software that will gain them commercial advantage under the guise of a security update.
    Why don’t HP take up the cartridge issue with the non-HP cartridge suppliers. (the Consumer is the easy touch?).
    Why is it taking HP 2 weeks (or more) to resolve this problem.
    Will HP be issuing a notification to affected parties with an apology
    Will HP be compensating parties affected by their action.
    HP claim they have good environmental credentials. This issue has not been very environmentally friendly as far as I am concerned. I have had to purchase 3 cartridges in 2 transactions. The cartridges have been transported to Bracknell after manufacture in Ireland and then transported to Newcastle TWICE. I have 3 perfectly good cartridges I cannot use and will be of no future use.
    I note that it is a problem in Holland and has been taken up with their Consumer Organisation, it would be interesting to know if this is a problem in other parts of the world especially the USA.

  9. I also have a HP printer, a Deskjet 3050A All in One. About 6 weeks ago I upated the software and have been getting error messages since. As my printer is one the lower end of the market. it would be cheaper for me to replace the printer than use HP ink.

  10. Not only will my HP Envy printer not take ‘non-genuine’ ink cartridges, it now won’t even take genuine ones as they are error coded as ‘incompatible’. HP tell me it is my fault for using non-genuine previously!

  11. I had used non-hp cartridges from Stinky Ink successfully until I had to change about 6 months ago, when the printer refused to work with them. I got hp cartridges and sadly dumped the others, which must have cost me a mint.

  12. It would appear that they have only updated a select few of thier printer models. We have a Deskjet D1470 that there is not a fix for. We are now going to dispose of it and never purchase HP again.

  13. My HP officejet has been sabotaged in exactly the same way as described by Albert Palmer above. Unfortunately I did not become aware of the nature of the problem until after, assuming the printer had failed, I bought another. I certainly now intend to seek redress from HP for what I consider to be an act of commercially motivated vandalism.

  14. HP issued a firmware update on 12 October 2016 reversing the block on their Officejet, Officejet Pro and Officejet Pro X printers. I have an HP Photosmart 5510 printer that was also blocked. Could you please inform me when an update to unblock my printer will be/is issued.

  15. I am furious. I have an HP Photosmart 6520 which was working perfectly. I read an interesting article Which published on their poor value ink catridges – which cost a fortune and are not even full! And I switched to the best on text compatible Which recommended. First pack worked fine. Then for last 6 weeks I have had problem after problem. With the HP incompatible error message. I have tried 3 catridges now. Gone through all the cleaning measures and I was personally convinced they had rigged their software to do this.
    I am absolutely relieved to see your article in small print albeit on page 9 of November’s magazine. I am furious with HP. this is no worse than the emissions rigging of VW. It is unethical. And I seriously just want to return the printer to John Lewis. TEll them not to deal with this company and switch to a Canon as per your last best printer report.
    What makes it worse is my printer isn’t even in the downloadable patch repair list? Can you get to the bottom of this with them for me Which?

  16. I appear to have the same problem, my Hp photosmart 5510 had been working with non Hp cartridges, albeit receiving messages prior to printing informing me I was not using the correct cartridges,but it did at least work ok. However when switching on the other day I immediately received a message with error ‘ ink system failure’ switch device of and then on again. This I did but to no avail so I trotted off to buy genuine HP cartridges thinking this would solve the problem. Wrong, I still have the same messages despite cleaning and checking the print head. This message cannot be by passed in any way, the control panel is blank and I cannot access the menu at all. Can anyone help with advise as I am really stuck now? Thank you

  17. I’ve had this problem for a few years now with an older HP printer. The prices of ink cartridges are ridiculous. A visit to a local supermarket at the weekend confirmed this, as a new HP all-in-one printer with ink cartridges included was £10 cheaper than one black ink HP cartridge. So it seems it is better to but a new printer each time you need to replace ink, how can this be?

  18. Problem
    I bought Dec 2016 photos n9j73ae 301 for my printer
    Which I have always use
    I have opened it today to find
    It contains 1 yell 1 blue 2 black
    Which is wrong but I have tried both the black 364 and now my printer will not work
    Please advice as this cost me nearly £26
    I can take photos of all the items
    And email if you wish

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