Home Print Solutions HP in the red with Choice over printer ink cartridges

HP in the red with Choice over printer ink cartridges

Printer maker HP is being investigated by consumer advocacy group Choice over reports the company has breached Australian Consumer Law following reports it issued a firmware update to block consumers using cheaper third-party ink cartridges.

Last week it was reported that many HP printers with third-party ink cartridges displayed error messages such as "cartridge problem", "one or more cartridges are missing or damaged" or "older generation cartridge" following a firmware update issued by the printer giant.

Choice head of media Tom Godfrey says the group is concerned that HP is “throwing its weight around in order to lock consumers into buying its expensive ink, taking away consumer choice and treating its customers terribly”.

In particular, Choice is assessing whether HP may have misled or deceived their customers under section 18 of the consumer law.

“If consumers bought an HP printer relying on the fact that it could use non-HP ink, and HP has unilaterally taken that functionality away, then there is a risk that the company is breaching consumer law,” Godfrey says.

“After years of being able to use non-HP ink, consumers have a reasonable expectation that they will be able to continue to choose which ink they will use.

“HP ink, at $5128 per litre, already costs substantially more than luxury goods like Chanel No 5 perfume, which is a comparative steal at $3514 per litre.

“Consumers are already being asked to pay exorbitant prices for HP ink, and now the company is reportedly cutting off consumer access to cheaper competitors.

“In short, consumers were sold a product on one basis, and now HP has substantially changed the way its product operates through a behind-the-scenes firmware update.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).