Printer ink wars – big brands battle cheap third-party ink

You can save up to 80% by opting for third-party printer ink over manufacturer cartridges. However, the big printer brands like HP and Epson would much rather you didn’t.

We’ve found that while the companies may not be blocking third-party cartridges, they’re actively trying to dissuade you from looking elsewhere for your printer ink.

Printer reviews – inkjet and laser printers by HP, Canon and more

HP and the curious case of ‘dynamic security’

In 2016, selected HP OfficeJet printers started rejecting non-official, HP-chipped ink cartridges. This was due to a ‘dynamic security’ feature that had been activated in the printer software.

HP initially claimed that it was protecting its ‘intellectual property’. Following negative media coverage, however, it later apologised and issued a fix.

We’ve now verified on nine different OfficeJet models that, after the firmware was updated, the printers accept third-party inks once more. If you have an OfficeJet printer, you should download the firmware update to it.

Warnings and error messages

HP may not be blocking third-party cartridges on OfficeJet printers any longer. However, we’ve found in our testing that it bombards the user with error and warning messages about using ‘non-genuine’ inks.

A typical message says: ‘Non-HP ink cartridges installed. HP cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of non-HP supplies. Printer service or repairs required as a result of using a non-HP supply will not be covered under warranty.’

We’ve had similar complaints about Epson printers and third-party ink. In a snapshot test on the Epson Expression Premium XP-630 we found it did accept third-party inks, but heavily warned you against using them.

Epson told us it that it can’t comment on how its software updates ‘might affect third-party suppliers now or in the future’.

‘There is a large market in non-genuine inks for Epson printers, which has remained pretty consistent over time,’ the company added.

‘Epson would always recommend and can only guarantee the use of genuine Epson inks in its printers. Epson does not test or approve any non-genuine inks and cannot guarantee their quality or design.’

Don’t be put off by the warnings

Printer brands understandably want you to use their printer ink and paper. However, we feel that giving excessive and heavy-handed warnings is possibly a step too far.

You should be able to shop around for your ink, particularly as we know big savings can be made.

Third-party inks can be significantly cheaper, and most sellers will offer a refund or replacement if you do encounter any problems.

More on this

Best Buy printers – top printers that aced our expert tests
Best cheap printers to run – excellent and efficient models
Cheap ink cartridges – we show you where to buy your ink

4 replies

  1. I have a Brother HL-3150CDW colour laser printer and I used a 3rd party black toner. Now I cannot get it out of its holder and I have had to buy another genuine toner plus the holder to go with it at a cost of almost £100!

  2. I have an HP Envy printer and get my printer cartridges through the HP Instant Ink replacement scheme. After installing one black cartridge I regularly got error messages saying that I had installed a non-genuine HP cartridge and these continued until I needed to replace it. These messages have now thankfully stopped but it worried me that I had been supplied with a false HP item.

  3. More protectionism! Exploiting the ‘captive audience’!

    Imagine buying a car and having to use a specific brand of petrol otherwise it won’t work properly.


  4. My strategy is to purchase printers with good print quality and low running costs. You can purchase a Dell Laser printer for £75 to £100 on EBay with a new 3000 page toner cartridge.
    Then purchase replacement genuine Dell cartridge for £50 to £75 with 6k to 10k pages.

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