Hewlett Packard has potentially just annoyed a lot of people.
The company has released an update for its printers that will prevent customers from using cheaper, unofficial ink cartridges made by third-parties.
HP refused to comment on the exact timing of the update, but there is growing evidence that HP had programmed their own printers to reject the cartridges as large numbers of customers experienced an error message simultaneously.
On 13 September, many printer owners experienced an error message stating either ‘cartridge problem’ or ‘older generation cartridge’. Dutch printer ink vendor 123inkt told the BBC it had received more than 1000 complaints in one day.
In an official statement, HP explained that the change was made to: “Protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”
“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,” it added.
Among the cartridges that are affected are HP Office Jet, Office Jet Pro and Office Jet ProX and now the printers will only communicate with HP chipped cartridges.
Although if chipped cartridges are filled with alternatively sourced ink they would still work: “These printers will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an original HP security chip.”
Customers have taken to HP forums to vent their frustration as official cartridges can cost more than double that of other brands.
Cascadia High said: “All four cartridges got mysteriously ‘damaged’ at the same time. This is a brand of cartridges we’ve been using forever, perfect print quality, never a problem. HP, why do you keep doing this? We DO NOT WANT to buy your $100 ink when the same quality is available for a fifth of the cost. Please provide a workaround so we can keep using whatever ink we choose.”
Claire2 added: “I replaced all four cartridges with compatible ink cartridges and now am getting the error message that ‘ink is installed incorrectly’ - each time a different colour, sometimes multiple colours? I believe this is due to you firmware upgrade and is surely illegal? I wouldn’t have to buy all of my washing powder from Tesco’s just because I purchased a washing machine from them?”