It's an old business model. You sell razors cheaply and then you make your profit from selling expensive blades. Hewlett-Packard (HP), and other printer companies, have been using the razor/blade model for years. Now, they've taken it to a new level. HP, according to the Dutch ink seller, 123inkt.nl, is deliberately making it impossible for you to use refurbished ink cartridges in HP Officejet printers.
Guess what? They're right.
While HP took its time getting back to me, I tried a third-party ink cartridge in my HP OfficeJet Pro 8610. Sure enough, it didn't work. Instead, I was informed that the ink cartridge was damaged. I was unable to print a single page.
Since then, HP has gotten back to me. The company's official statement said:
Beginning in 2015, HP implemented updates to the firmware related to the security chip in HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X printers that maintains secure communications between the cartridge and the printer. The purpose of this update is 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. 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.
Innovations? Intellectual property? It's a printer, not a nuclear submarine.
What HP really wants, of course, is to make more money.
This is not the first time, not will it be the last, that HP has gone after companies offering users a cheap deal on printer ink.
More than a decade ago, HP, Epson, and Canon were all trying to use smart chips to keep users from using refilled ink cartridges. Since then, HP has sued companies for violating their printer cartridges patents.
In this latest ink squeeze, HP appears to have set September 13 as D-Day for unofficial cartridges in its March 2016 firmware update. Your printer doesn't need to be connected to the net for the ink lock down to hit your printer. According to 123inkt, unconnected printers will run into same problem if they have the March update installed.
So, for now, if you want to keep using your HP OfficeJet printer, you're going to need to keep buying official HP ink.
Here's what that means to your wallet. My OfficeJet Pro 8610's HP 950 standard black ink cartridge, good for about 1,000 pages, costs $26.99. A refill of its HP 951 3-pack of colors, good for 700 pages, is $59.99. So to totally replace my inks will run me $86.98. Or, I could go to my local Staples and buy an HP OfficeJet 3830 printer for $59.99.
Yes, that's right. I can buy an HP OfficeJet with about the same functionality as my Pro for $17 less than it would cost me to replace the ink in my existing printer.
Is it any wonder that customers are hunting for ink cartridge bargains? And is it any wonder that HP will do its best to make sure that you won't be able to do that? No and no.