The extremely popular brand Hewlett-Packard (HP) has ignited anger among its customer base by releasing a recent “firmware” update that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges in their printers — in a move similar to Apple’s, for the cables and accessories that are not MFi certified.

As written by , through remote updates, customers’ devices are now rendered inoperable unless they are equipped with approved HP ink cartridges; the update restricts the usage of any cartridges without an HP chip (which are typically more costly) — should a customer attempt to utilize a non-HP ink cartridge, the printer will refuse to print altogether.

The printer will not operate if a non-HP ink cartridge is detected (Image: “HP 7310 printer” by Christiaan Colen)

Previously, HP printers would display a warning when a “third-party” ink cartridge was inserted. However, with the recent update, the printers no longer issue a warning but instead, simply refuse to print.

HP justifies this update to minimize the risk of malware attacks, claiming that “third-party cartridges that use non-HP chips or circuitry can pose risks to the hardware performance, print quality, and security.” — they also mention that regular updates are implemented to enhance services, such as introducing alerts to notify customers when their ink levels are low.

Nevertheless, HP’s website reveals that the company also blocks the use of rival cartridges to “maintain the integrity of our printing systems and protect our intellectual property.” Customers, feeling cheated by the update, have taken to social media to express their outrage.

Not the first time it happens

This is not the first time HP has incurred the ire of its customers due to the blockage of other ink cartridges; the company has been compelled to compensate customers across America, Australia, and Europe since the introduction of dynamic security measures in 2016.

In the past year alone, HP paid $1.35 million to consumers in Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal who unknowingly purchased printers with cartridge-blocking features.

HP ink cartridges can cost more than double the price of third-party alternatives.

Consumer advocates have called upon the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate whether the pricing of branded ink and the implementation of “dynamic security” measures are fair to consumers; these advocates discovered that lesser-known ink cartridge brands offer better value for money than significant manufacturers.

“Which?” (a consumer group)  stated that manufacturers actively hinder customers from exercising their right to choose affordable ink, preventing them from obtaining a better deal.

HP stated that select customers have the option to disable the cartridge-blocking feature in their printer settings (depending on the model).

An HP spokesperson clarified that printers equipped with “dynamic security” are clearly labeled as such on product packaging, technical materials, and online resources, still, they did not specify which printer models possess this feature — according to the company’s website, all standard HP printers will block cartridges without an HP chip or circuitry.

The spokesperson further mentioned that certain third-party cartridges can function normally if they reuse the HP chip or electronic circuitry.

HP also stated that select customers have the option to disable the cartridge-blocking feature in their printer settings, depending on the printer model. Others will be left with printers that only function when they commit to purchasing HP-approved ink cartridges, thereby incurring higher costs.

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