/ Technology

Has a printer update rendered your cartridges redundant?

Printer software update

You fire up your PC, turn on your printer and send a file to print and then… ‘cartridge not recognised’. The printer won’t print. So what’s changed since yesterday? You may be the latest victim of a printer update.

Third-party ink cartridges are generally a fraction of the price of printer-branded inks, but we’ve heard reports of printer updates rendering these cartridges unusable.

We asked Which? members to share their printing problems and a number of them sounded like they related to software updates. However, with some printers set to automatically update, it can be hard to pin a specific problem to a specific update. Ian C told us:

‘I bought compatible inks. After a few weeks they suddenly stopped working, with a message saying they were incompatible. Replaced them with new ones but had the same problem.’

Tony G had a similar experience:

‘Lo and behold, my printer has started rejecting – that is, not printing when I use third-party cartridges – but when I then replace them with printer-branded ones it seems to work fine.’

We tried updating the firmware on three second-hand printers in our lab and the printers worked just as well with third-party ink before updating as they did afterwards. So updates won’t always stop your cartridges from being recognised.

HP printers rejecting ink cartridges

However, there have been some very recent victims. Just last week we heard a number of reports from members whose HP printers have stopped working with the third-party inks.

Mr White’s printer ink cartridges have been affected by the latest update:

‘I own an HP 3055A printer which uses the popular 301 cartridge, today I changed the cartridges and find that the printer will no longer print as it detects that a non-HP cartridge has been installed. A printer update was reported as being available from HP when I turned the printer on – on the 7 March – and I updated prior to installing the new cartridges. After installing the new cartridge the information screen on the printer showed the message “incompatible cartridge detected”.’

Rob Stone has also suffered at the hands of a recent update to his HP Officejet 6600 and said:

‘I’ve been using third-party inks with no issues for several months. It was when I accidentally ran an HP update from my PC that the problem occurred. The error message said “There is a problem with the printer ink or system. Turn printer off, then on. If problem persists, contact HP”. It prevents me from moving to any other menu on the printer.’

Your right to use third-party printer inks

As iPhone 6 users suffering at the hands of the ‘Error 53’ message know only too well, update issues aren’t only a problem for printers. But, fortunately for affected phone users, Apple released a fix.

It may not be quite so simple to roll back a printer update. We’ve previously spoken to printer manufacturers about software updates, with Brother, Canon and Epson telling us that reverting to a previous firmware version wasn’t usually possible at all. HP stood out from the crowd by saying that you could roll ball its updates, but it’s not an obvious or simple process.

In light of this latest glut of update issues, we’ve approached HP to find out what’s causing the problem and whether it’ll be possible for those affected to get their printers working with their inks again.

You absolutely should be able to choose to use third-party ink in your printer. The big consumer printer brands have all signed up to a voluntary agreement which includes a provision around not preventing third-party ink from being used in their printers.

If you’ve suffered a ‘printerruption’ as result of a printer software update – or which you suspect is as a result of a recent update – we want to hear about it.

Comments
pissedoffpensioner says:
14 October 2019

Used clone cartridges on Epson printer for at least 3 years. Disabled Ink monitor but ufortunately did not disable Epson updates, now I have problems and it says all cartrdiges are empty, Also the monitor has crosses through them . I appear to have the option of using the black cartridge for a while longer (time unspecified).

You have to block both the printers updates and Windows “security ” updates relating to your printer as they contain firmware changes that block third party inks.
Windows updates overrule your blocking of updates on your printer.

James says:
19 October 2019

Thank you for the guidance.. It does work.

Kerich says:
19 October 2019

Epson WF-3720 bit me. Did a firmware update and my printer stopped… wouldn’t recognize the aftermarket ink cartridge. Can’t find a cheap solution.

Gone are the days you could find one on the web Kerich. Firmware means just that “firm “, unless you are friendly with a digital software engineer.
Nowadays updating ink cartridge printers could mean the loss of third party inks –block updates when you install your next one –manually do NOT allowing it to install automatically ,then make sure any printer “security updates ” via Windows are blocked as well as MS has a deal with them to overrule your manual installation and install the firmware updates forcefully.

Scott B says:
19 October 2019

I had the same issue also on the same printer, updated the firmware and now it doesn’t see my cartridges

Neil Gidman says:
19 October 2019

Epson Expression Home XP-225 automatic firmware update today (19-10-2019) rendered my compatible cartridges useless. I’ve tried in vain to find previous firmware. I didn’t think Epson were allowed to do this.
Printer only good for the bin now.

Neil I am certainly not going to say this will work but when anybody says they are going to bin their printer I feel a bit sorry for them so for you I will give you a link to try but absolutely zero guarantees it will work and you need the original firmware download.-
https://mattpilz.com/how-to-downgrade-epson-xp-printer-firmware-fix-ink-not-recognized-error-xp-300-to-xp-640/
Your right Epsom has “got at ” various websites supplying driver downloads , click on it produces “file not found ” but I managed to find one website that actually downloads the XP-225 drivers –

https://www.driverspure.com/epson-expression-home-xp-225-driver-download-and-install/

again absolutely no guarantees but try it anyway.

I guess downloading zero cost 3rd party firmware should be entirely at one’s own risk, particularly if it is not open source.

I’m sure many hackers would be delighted if we all were to download “new and improved” firmware, as supplied by them.

Entirely agree but with big conglomerates pushing the public to download the latest app its a losing struggle to teach the public.

Lynette Jones says:
22 October 2019

Uninstalled printer, reinstalled the software and immediately turned off updates, so it has NOT had any updates. It STILL will NOT take the ink cartridge. Printer is several years old, and an Epson WF3620. Had the same problem with with my brand new CD printing HP that I had, previous to being stupid enough to buy this useless Epson.

I am a bit confused Lynette when you say–“uninstalled printer etc ” did you do that because it would not take third party inks ? –if so doing that wont make any difference as the “fault ” is in the firmware which is no amenable to a “reboot ” or a reinstallation action .
Can I ask did you also block Windows from installing “security updates ” which included Epson “upgrades ” ? I say that as Windows overrides any printer programming settings to “upgrade ” to the new firmware therbye blocking you from using third party inks.

As a general statement they have exactly the same problem in the USA -Consumer Affairs a highly regarded US public help website has a bit under 1000 complaints about Epson itself most of them are “one star ” and the language etc by the posters would not get by this website .
As you know Americans protest strongly when they think they have been “taken ” by any company , in the interests of fairness CA asked Epson to become part of their advertised programme to because an “approved manufacturer” to CA standards just like Which ? does —they refused to take part and that’s official .
This was just one manufacturer others in the same boat got short shrift as well.
They also complained of even OEM cartridges showing “empty ” when they were not , when switched to print black only it did not make any difference , running through ink colours when cleaning heads and a host of other complaints.

I recently scrapped my 10 year old Epson SX-200. It had been out of use for 9 years, after it started making life very difficult if I wanted to use 3rd party ink. It did not completely block 3rd party ink, but just threw up many “click yes to confirm” boxes as part of the printing process.

If I had managed to get all of its inkjets working again, then I think it would probably have printed OK with much less expensive 3rd party ink.

My even older Canon MP-750 (a former Which? best buy) always worked fine with 3rd party ink, latterly via refill kits, but its print head had reached end-of-life. Hence the Canon also had to be scrapped.

Given the wide extent of this problem, I think anyone buying a new printer should plan and budget on the basis of using genuine OEM ink. I suppose they can at least be thankful that they don’t have to use only genuine OEM paper as well.

I do also accept the idea that device owners should be able to use 3rd party ink if that’s their choice.

But, given the antics of printer manufacturers, perhaps this might require supporting legislation and a realignment of printer and ink prices. For sometime now, home use printers have been rather like “network locked” mobile phones, i.e. the devices cost almost nothing to acquire, but then guarantee a stream of revenue to their supplier.

What operating system are you using Lynette?

You could try uninstalling the software then don’t use HP/Canon software but let the operating system install the printer for you with basic drivers. Whether this works might depend on how much data is left behind after the uninstall as manufacturers always leave traces left behind.

For Windows 10, have a look here at How to add a printer:
https://www.howtogeek.com/362534/how-to-manage-a-printer-in-windows-10/

My printer is an HP C-6180 on Windows 7 with drivers dated 2006. It prints and scans with no problems. Copying to a computer has never worked too well, but that is easily overcome by plugging a USB pen into the printer and copying to that instead.

It does mean I can use 3rd party inks but don’t get to use HP software for managing photos etc.

The problem Alfa is the fact of not being able to uninstall the “upgraded ” firmware and download old firmware drivers that’s what upset most of the printer world customers .
I tried to give Neil (above ) some pretty complicated advice about trying to do it with zero guarantee it would work .
Reboots and reinstallations wont work as the firmware resists this , many have tried round the world and failed ,it requires a computer software engineer Coding the firmware direct (interrogate ) which costs money .
Then you have many driver websites under pressure from the big boys to remove old driver downloads , sure the download boxes are there but clicking on them produces—no file .

You may be right Duncan.

I didn’t try 3rd party inks in my printer for years because so many other people on the internet said they didn’t work and I did initially install the bundled HP software. The printer may have had a firmware update in the early days but could just as likely be running with the original firmware it came with.

But when I reinstalled the operating system, I let Microsoft install basic printer drivers and when I eventually tried 3rd party inks they worked.

Not knowing how old printers are, and failing all else, I would still give my suggestion a go.

Duncan, as firmware is software on the printer itself, I agree that rolling back the PC’s printer drivers and other utilities won’t also roll back any printer firmware upgrades. So alfa’s advice to Lynette might be worth trying but won’t necessarily fix the problem.

Okay I understand now Alfa & Derek but the whole western world is looking for an answer and we are talking millions .

I posted on another convo that two Americans have filed a Class Action against Epson I await the outcome as 10,000,s of complaints exist throughout the web from country to country city to city throughout the world .
As this convo is directly related to this issue I also post the link here-
https://www.classaction.org/blog/class-action-claims-epson-software-updates-effectively-ruined-printers-using-third-party-ink-cartridges
This applies to the USA only but if they win it gives real strength to a case being brought in the UK.

Stuart Ward says:
30 October 2019

We have an Epson WF-5110 that has just stopped printing telling us that the cartridges aren’t Genuine, possibly after a firmware update but no-ones admitting to it. What Epson and the likes don’t understand is that people will just buy products from companies that don’t do this, I know I will. We run an IT company and we’re advising our clients to stay away from HP and Epson products for this exact reason. The users don’t like being milked by these companies and if you’re the victim of it vote with your feet.

@gmartin – Hi George – I am very disappointed that we are still seeing posts like the one by Stuart Ward above. There is good evidence that third party cartridges can be rejected following a firmware update, though how many users are affected seems unknown.

The problem has featured in several Convos and it was Which? that raised the issue in the first place. I assume that this problem should by handled by the Competition and Markets Authority, but I do not know if Which? has contacted the CMA.

Not only are consumers wasting their time and money but there is an environmental cost in scrapping affected printers and it does seem to have affected all the major brands at one time or other.

Some of us have tried to offer useful advice but I think it’s now time to hand this back to Which?

Thanks wavechange, I understand the frustration. I must admit I’m not personally completely up-to-date with our latest work on printers/ink, however I can find out. I will pass this on now.

Thanks George. I did try to get Katie Waller to respond but believe she has moved on.

Katie left quite a while back unfortunately. I’ll find the right person.

Hi all, an update on this – the team is currently investigating the issues, including the ones raised here. In fact, Stuart’s comment above will be included in the upcoming work as an example. Nothing further to share at the moment, but work is ongoing.

Thanks George.

Peter Webb says:
30 October 2019

My HP Deskjet 2510 printer now fails to work with third party cartridges, but surprise surprise works with HP ones. In my case the warning message did not mention cartridges but just said “printer error”. Luckily I risked buying a HP original. Disgusting service by HP

Hi Peter – It may be a problem with the cartridge(s) being rejected but I wonder if it could just be a problem with a faulty cartridge, which the supplier may be happy to replace. I once thought I had a problem but all that was wrong was the ‘chip’ had fallen off the cartridge. The problem was quickly rectified.

Philippe Monette says:
30 October 2019

I have an epson xp-440 and the last firmware update made the remanufactured ink i had been using for 2 years with this printer “unrecongnizable”. Now my printer is stuck at an error message telling me to change the black cartridge (since i only ever printed text, the other color cartridges are still original epson’s ones that came with the printer). I cant even use my scanner, or go to the menu until i put epson cartridges in all slots. Very scummy marketing tactic.

I am sorry ,although I take this subject very seriously and have posted much on it over the years I saw a online foreign news programme which made me smile .
NASA has developed a method of printing solar cells for astronauts to stay on the Moon/Mars –
WASHINGTON – A quick way to secure a reliable supply of electricity for an extended stay on the Moon or Mars would use an ink-jet-like printer to make super-thin solar cells from a substance known as perovskite, NASA said in a press release on Wednesday
“This material [perovskite] is a relatively new discovery, and it has many advantages for solar technology”, the release said. “Not only is perovskite an incredible conductor of electricity, but it also can be transported into space as a liquid and then printed onto panels on the Moon or Mars, unlike silicon panels that have to be built on Earth and then shipped to space”
It has occurred to me if they are using an Epson inkjet printer or an HP model then I hope they are using OEM ink otherwise –
Moon to earth base – run out of ink now using third party brand
NASA – yeah go ahead !
Moon base – roger that .
5 minutes later –
Moon base to NASA printer refuses to work says we are using wrong ink does that mean our $billion mission is abandoned ?
NASA to Moon base yes sorry about that come on home .
NASA to control room on earth –get Donald on the phone — Mr President –oh! you have heard the bad news already ?
Whats that ?– Epson is being sanctioned and company directors to loose their citizenship ?

AvoidEpson says:
3 November 2019

My Epson WF-7610 warned me that I was using non-Epson inks but allowed them through. However, the colour inks are printing in a regular but distrupted pattern however much I go through all the head cleaning and realigning. Black works fine. It looks to me that the firmware is purposely disrupting the colour. Fortunately I hardly use the printer these days. Will never buy Epson again.

And neither are a lot of inkjet printer buyers AE -share prices on the NYSE for Seiko Epson
are down -14.56 % over a year.
I “wonder ” if its the ultra high prices for their gold-plated ink ?

I wonder if this was just a faulty third party cartridge. It might be worth asking the supplier for a replacement.

Hp printer ran out of black ink today so I installed a non HP new cartridge…an error message telling me I’ve not inserted the cartridge properly pops up – there is no way of installing them wrongly unless you’re doing it blindfolded!!!! A clever way of denying that they’re stopping me from using non HP cartridges I fear…

Your right Jax -translation –What ! you installed third party ink cartridge ?- Dont you understand that drops shareholders profits ? –please buy a genuine HP cartridge as soon as possible.
Its a firmware update Jax no use looking on the web for an answer unless you know a friendly software designer/engineer.

But —-
I have found a European website that tells you how to downgrade the firmware of a HP Office-jet Pro it involves a bit of programming –running and editing a Bat file (Windows 10 ) I regularly use the Terminal or upgrade myself to root to change basic text programming
and Windows classes the website as “malware ” but having tested it its not but there again I have Linux so I don’t want to post it in case somebody here takes offence but I could be persuaded ?

Jax – I suggest checking that the chip is on place on the cartridge. I’ve had an error message because the chip had fallen off a cartridge and I have just been speaking to a friend who has had the same problem.

It would be interesting to know the legal position of traders who market third party inks claiming they are fully compatible. Obviously they should accept a return of the incompatible cartridge(s) for a full refund, but can action be taken against them for misrepresentation?

There seems to be no point in trying to devise software or other means of enabling third party cartridges to function correctly because the printer manufacturers would just defeat them and possibly render the printer unuseable. Presumably they would also disable those machines that are internet-connected until an OEM cartridge is installed.

John they can only disable them remotely so if the user blocks automatic installation and does it manually making sure updates don’t occur and does the same in Windows 10 “security ” updates referring to a printer they cant interrogate the printer then download firmware updates blocking third party use.
The problem is unless you have Windows 10 Business version (called Enterprise ) you eventually get overridden .

John – Imagine if we had to use the manufacturers’ petrol and oil in our cars, and their detergents in our washing machines and dishwashers. Third party manufacturers are not allowed to sell counterfeit products or copy features that are still within patent, but they can legally produce their own products as alternatives to those sold by the equipment manufacturer – often at a fraction of the price to the customer. If they don’t function properly the customer can claim a refund or replacement.

At present the third party manufacturers are having to foot the bill for refunds when a printer firmware update (provided by the manufacturer) blocks use of third party cartridges. I don’t know why our Competition and Markets Authority has not taken action against this anticompetitive practice.

With the possible exception of Kodak, which seems to have stopped making printers, all the main brands of printer appear to have caused problems for third party ink users via firmware updates (see the introduction to this Convo).

I have not done a firmware update since learning of the problem and find it encouraging that friends are already aware of the issue. What Duncan says about Windows 10 is worrying, but it might be what is needed for legal action to be taken against printer manufacturers.

Perhaps we would rather pay the real cost of the printer and of the ink cartridges? Something similar seems to happen with ball point pens, phone batteries, coffee pods, razor blades…… where manufacturers try to make money out of consumables. It certainly happens in some (much) of the spares market.

I don’t know of a Chinese personal ink jet printer. Have I missed it? You would think they would enter such a mass market with printers and inks.

Although China sells business and industrial inkjet printers I have found a website which has a news item of 3 weeks old about a Chinese Home inkjet printer Malcolm .
Its an Xiaomi selling in the USA for £220 maybe Amazon will import it for you before Donald sanctions it ?-
https://china-gadgets.com/xiaomi-inkjet-printer/
Its on sale in the USA/India
https://in.c.mi.com/thread-1975612-1-0.html

Thanks, Duncan. Seems to print around 10x as many pages as my home printer so very well priced against mine if I printed that many, even if I bought 3rd party cartridges for mine.Maybe more aimed at the small business / home office?

Ink tank printers may provide an answer for the problem of cheap printers and expensive consumables for frequent users. If the ink becomes expensive, users will buy third party ink.

I first refilled a cartridge in 1994, using a refill kit I found in Montreal.

Wavechange – I am not condoning the anti-competitive behaviour of the printer manufacturers and agree that it would be extremely unsatisfactory to have to use a proprietary consumable in all our vehicles and equipment. But printer manufacturers are in possession of digital coding that can be applied to their ink cartridges to allow them to function if it matches the coding in the printer. This cannot occur with petrol or washing powder. Moreover, because the modern printers rely on an internet connexion to the manufacturer for diagnostics and updates, they are in a unique position to exploit that – which they do. For years we had printers that were just dumb appliances attached by a cable to the PC merely used for transmitting the data and printing instructions. There was no monitoring of paper use, ink status, or anything else, and generally no need to alter the basic programming before the machine died of natural causes.

The printer manufacturers have convinced users that they are better off with these more advanced features and made the use of their own inks indispensable; I expect it is written into the terms and conditions of purchase. To that extent, people who have bought the relevant units have accepted that limitation on their freedom to use alternative ink supplies. I am not saying that is a good thing but I believe it is virtually unavoidable and not unlawful. I presume that commercial users also have to put up with it if they buy the restricted printers; maybe they don’t worry because they can pass the extra costs off within their overheads.

I think most home users would be loath to embark on the kind of adaptation that Duncan tells us is feasible so they are stuck with the problem and have to pay more than necessary for their ink if they wish to continue using the printer. The printer manufacturers are hoping to drive the third party ink makers and suppliers out of business – but I doubt if they will lower the price of proprietary ink when they have achieved that. I certainly would welcome a CMA investigation into this and consider it long overdue.

The Intro to this Conversation says “You absolutely should be able to choose to use third-party ink in your printer. The big consumer printer brands have all signed up to a voluntary agreement which includes a provision around not preventing third-party ink from being used in their printers“.

Unfortunately Which? does not say what it intends to do about this consumer detriment. At the very least it should be pursuing the printer manufacturers who have signed up to the voluntary agreement and making them comply with it. Certainly, no Best Buys or other commendations should be issued to printers that exhibit this problem and Which? should also raise it as a complaint to the Competition & Markets Authority. They should also investigate which printers can satisfactorily use third party ink without problems or software adaptation and publicise this. Printing documentation has become an everyday necessity for citizens these days for everything from insurance policies and utility bills to application forms and correspondence so it is essential to prevent this exploitation.

Progressively the third party ink suppliers will fall by the wayside so there is actually no point in taking any action against them for misrepresentation. They are not selling counterfeit products because they are not masquerading as another manufacturer’s product with proprietary branding. They are merely offering ‘compatible’ inks which turn out to be unuseable, so that market will die out.

I suspect that the actual retail price of a printer is around a quarter to a third of its realistic price and this is predicated on the continuing value of the trade in consumables. Until the third party ink supply business gained critical mass its impact was not worth worrying about but clearly the economics have changed so the worm has turned. I can only assume that it is not economically viable for a company to manufacture and market a printer that will run on any make of ink so long as the cartridge fits the device otherwise someone would have done so. It certainly would not suit Currys PC World’s business model.

At least the printer manufacturers are not able [yet] to control which paper stock we feed into our machines.

For many people with low printing requirements – perhaps the majority – a cheap and versatile printer may well be a good buy for them. For large print requiremets an ink tank printer serms a fair option. I’m not sure how the CMA would have any useful power over the “international” printer manufacturers. Even the EU (where I consider the action should start) would struggle. Am I right in assuming the same situation also pertains in the USA?

I presume that if printer manufacturers were forced to stop restricting 3rd party cartridges they would simply raise their printer prices accordingly. Is that what all would prefer?

This is why I wondered if a Chinese manufacturer would capitalise on the situation and produce a reasonably-priced printer with, ssy, refillable cartridges – either by the user and/or 3rd parties.

The last available comment on this in the USA nearly a year ago is that HP reinstated blocking after class actions a new class action has started against them but they take a year or two .
HP has said there is a “bug ” in the firmware and cant change it back .
The UK has no chance of changing any US printers companies mind their laws apply to the USA not any foreign country .
I have said this several times — HMG will need to introduce government legislation forcing these giant US companies to comply –its not going to happen –period !
Its all very well saying – oh they have bases here -yes in Dublin for tax purposes if anybody thinks I am wrong then show me the actions taken to force them to comply just the same (non ) actions in regards to Amazon – realism that’s all it is .

I would be happy for the CMA to answer whether it can act against international companies but first Which? would have to ask the question.

John that’s a very big ask ,has Which ? the power ?
The first government priority is Brexit the second the General Election and the third is the trade agreement with the USA which has been ongoing for about a year that I think will stop any action being taken .
Its nice to think always in a positive sense but I (usually ) am not positive when it comes to inter government dealings too much is kept secret from the public .

This is not inter-government dealings, Duncan. It is a question of whether our Competition & Markets Authority has the statutory power to investigate the market in printer ink in the UK and determine whether it operates in the interests of the consumer. I find the notion that companies selling into our market can evade such scrutiny if they happen to be based overseas unsustainable. We are a free trade nation and that should apply at home as well as abroad.

Most energy companies are foreign-owned but they have been the subject of a market investigation and are also heavily regulated. The essential point is that if companies want to trade in this country they must do so fairly and not restrict competition if that is contrary to consumer interests.

Which? certainly has sufficient authority to ask the question; whether the CMA responds favourably is unknown until it is put.

If an investigation found that the major printer manufacturers were effectively rigging the UK market it would presumably take action within its statutory powers. Don’t forget, it effectively blocked the Sainsbury’s/Walmart amalgamation without any government intervention. Its powers are quite wide. If such action gave rise to a conflict with the government over its trade relations with the USA then it would be a brave government that stood in the way of a consumer benefit.

You mentioned previously that people might be able to import Chinese printers and ink via America unless sanctions [high tariffs, presumably] were applied by the US government. Why would we not be able to import them direct from China and cut out the middle man? It is the EU that is shackling our freedom to trade with any country in the world on the best terms; there’s no point in substituting the US for the EU just for the sake of a trade agreement that already has major objections and, if the President has his way, would be very one-sided.

I would suggest that the general election is the government’s priority but that will be all over [bar the shouting] in a month’s time. Then there is Brexit, and if we go ahead then there is the trade agreement with the EU to sort out. Until that is clear I think America will have to wait. I reckon two or three more years of negotiations before there is something solid for Parliament to approve. Where will Mr Trump be then?

Thanks John. I do hope that Which? will resmpond to y request above: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/printer-software-update-third-party-printer-ink/#comment-1578887 We must accept that our lives are ruled by the government of the day but there are many reasons for fighting against business running the show, especially where it creates problems and expense for consumers.

Malcolm wrote: “For many people with low printing requirements – perhaps the majority – a cheap and versatile printer may well be a good buy for them.” The result of this approach is that we have some printers that cost little more than a set of full-sized replacement cartridges, so there is little incentive to keep these printers for years, even if some of us do. That’s a large amount of waste plastic and electronics, just to suit the manufacturers’ business model of selling printers below cost price and profiting on the sale of consumables.

Those I know keep their printers. Why would you discard a working printer? My last one lasted 7 years.

At a time when Dell gave away free printers with each PC purchase, a local tech firm was known to immediately “skip” those printers, each time they bought a new PC. They did, however, keep the ink cartridges, for use in the first few the printers they’d received.

Those Dell printers were slightly modified Lenovo ones, so you could only get replacement ink cartridges from Dell. So, in that business model, the printers were literally free and you only had to pay for the ink.

Here in Gloucester, W H Smiths quite often has printers on special offer at £20 but their price for a set of oem ink cartridges is about £50. A short walk to Wilco can drop the oem ink price to £30 per set, but that’s still 50% more than the cost of the printer.

The cartridges included with some printers have less ink than the normal, I understand. It would be interesting if Which? Connect surveyed members to see how many threw away their printer rather than buy replacement cartridges.

They also “run out of ink ” before they really do run out of ink Malcolm that’s another big bone of contention with many printer owners as well as large amounts of ink used to “clean the heads ” .

In addition to the sort of offers that Derek mentions, Currys PC World offers several printers for about £25. If we are interested in discovering how long printers are kept it would be better to survey the entire population than Which? subscribers, who tend to be older and may keep products longer.

Compatible cartridges may not be available when new printers are first sold, so my advice to anyone looking for a printer is to check before purchase.

The problems that Duncan has mentioned have been discussed extensively on Which? Convo and been mentioned in the magazine. When inkjet printers are turned off for a short time, many if not all clean the heads when the power is restored.

Just over ride the message about ink and keep printing – at least, that is what I do with my Canon printer. The cartridges then run for a lot longer but you have to watch a print run for when one does completely run out.

The accuracy of my Canon printer has been, I find, remarkable. If a page has only partially printed due to a dead cartridge, I’ve changed the cartridge, run the page again and the registration has been spot on.

The message is there to alert the user to the fact that ink is low, so that they can obtain a replacement cartridge or that the ink might run out during a print job.

I don’t know about inkjet printers but some laser printers stop after printing a fixed number of pages. I had a colour Lexmark laser printer at work and that would stop after the number of pages specified in the manual. At £100 for each of the three colour cartridges and £150 for a high capacity black toner it was very expensive to run, even though the printer only cost £300. I switched to an HP colour laser and that would use cartridges until they were empty.

John you mentioned directly importing them from China ,the problem with that is you are the importer and therefore duties/customs/delivery charges would apply .
Remember China doesn’t act like a normal wholesaler but as a manufacturer which ,when dealing with the public makes you completely responsible as the Chinese government doesn’t allow companies selling to the public direct to be held responsible for any or all problems .
This means like “Price Japan ” you get it much cheaper but even after customs you have to arrange pick up from the harbour yourself , that’s why I said to Malcolm I hope Amazon sell them as they take care of everything.
Americans found this out the hard way when buying electronic gear at $100,s even $1000,s cheaper than the retail price.

Duncan – I was not assuming there would be no wholesaler between the consumer and the manufacturer, but questioning why the middleman had to be an American company.

Although all the talk is about a trade agreement with the USA, I am expecting trade agreements to be made with lots of other countries – if and when we leave the EU – including China. If a Chinese manufacturer can make a printer for a fair price that will accept any ink and not restrict its use of thirty party ink then it would surely be possible for the product to come direct from China to the UK not stopping off on the way in America where import tariffs would apply. The wholesaler could be a Chinese or a UK company. One of the things we could try to ensure in a trade agreement with China is a change of policy on its international trade terms so that the present restrictions are reduced or removed.

Having fed the world with a mass of products in recent years China is now facing a slowdown in demand and resistance to its restrictive policies. It will have to change its tune if it wants to regrow its export markets. The US is also having to retreat from some of its high-tariff attitudes as it can no longer bully-boy its way around the world’s markets. Look at how the American automobile manufacturers were wrong-footed over the desire for compact and economical vehicles. Being designed predominantly for their home market [where everything has to be super-scale] the output from many American manufacturers is not suitable for use in most other countries hence they have totally failed to dominate the motor and appliance markets in Europe, Asia and beyond.

As an aside, I consider it extremely unfortunate that despite all its market strength and protectionism, the EU has not succeeded in retaining and developing key manufacturing resources for the European domestic market, especially tech products. It is managing to hold on to car production and some appliance and equipment manufacturing but has not risen to the challenges posed by countries like South Korea and China and it might have missed the boat altogether now.

My HP printer now prevents me from printing totally if I use third party inks by coming up with the message that they are incorrectly installed (which they are not)…….so previous inks which are still full and which have been working are now being flagged up as incorrectly installed and needing replacing….. Surely this is illegal in light of their earlier agreement not to stop other inks from being used…..

Seemingly not in the UK as far as HMG is concerned JacN only government legislation against the company in this regard will be effective –why ?
This is now the Third time that HP have said—yes we will allow third party inks to be used on our printers —and then reneged on the deal, at this moment a new US Class Action suite has been issued on behalf of two Americans in a US court but it can take two years to get a resolution , don’t hold your breath.

Which? has been asked to use its authority as a consumer champion to press the Competition & Markets Authority to investigate the restrictions on the use third party inks and we are still awaiting its reaction. See previous comment –
https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/printer-software-update-third-party-printer-ink/#comment-1579906

Do we expect foreign companies to make a special case for the UK? I doubt it. Even the EU might struggle but would have more chance and, as it is an international issue I believe it would be they who should be pursuing this.

I agree with your logic Malcolm we do expect too much from international businesses its just that we get very little from our own government but I understand why on this issue , no “knight in shining armour ” is going to appear somebody is going to have to “bite the bullet ” and take action .
Exactly as I said along time ago the USA Federal Export Board classifies the UK as part of the EU and while this will hurt some peoples feelings the UK is a—-small market -yes I repeat a small market compared to the EU.
We are zoned with the EU once we leave then many will find Donald is no “Santa Claus ” and I guarantee he will not force US giant conglomerates to comply with UK Law quite the reverse .

I think it would be helpful to get the facts about the proprietary ink controls in other major European countries. Which? is ideally placed as a member of BEUC to report back on this.

If restrictions are outlawed by a future UK government then manufacturers will have to comply and there would be nothing the US President could do about it except take some form of retaliatory action. I don’t know whether the World Trade Organisation would intervene in that situation if it was manifestly unjustified. Maybe the whole idea is unrealistic, but I would like to see it tested rather than ruled out of contention.

If that was the case John then expect US citizens to buy UK versions as SMPS enables mains voltages from 100AC –230AC.
Cant see that happening.

I presume that there are prohibitive tariffs on the import of UK-type printers into the USA which are in place to protect the US manufacturers and the two-way shipping costs would also make them very expensive.

I am sure the American printer manufacturers would soon find a way of adapting the versions sold into the UK market to prevent them being used in the USA if they started losing sales of ink there. They could also restrict the consumer rights and warranties on imported models to make them difficult to repair or replace in the event of a fault.

Does America have a third-party ink supply chain?

After checking in Germany it seems they have the same problem not only do you do as I have said in manual installing and blocking printer updates in both the printer and Windows but HP has added –HP Web Services that too must be blocked .
Now here is a “secret ” system to try — I take absolutely zero responsibility for it from a German called Erin-

Tried replacing non-HP cartridges which worked fine in our HP 8600 with a new set of generic Calidad cartridges on 18 May 2019. Kept getting “There is a problem with the ink or printer…” message. Calidad even sent us a new set of cartridges which they thought would work without issue but still the error still appeared. Semi and Full Resets did nothing to remove the block. Long story short, I’ve managed to get them to work after putting the printer in MFG mode (whatever that is) from the secret menu. To get there I did the following (I take no responsibility if this messes up your printer):

Unplug printer’s power cord from the back of the printer
Press and HOLD the power button
Plug power cord back in (keep holding power button)
The HP logo will appear then the screen will go blank
Hold power button for 10 seconds and then release it
Press HOME BUTTON ONCE (top left)
Press RETURN/BACK ARROW ONCE (bottom left)
Press HOME BUTTON TWICE
That should bring up the control screen
NOTE: On my printer I couldn’t see the home or back buttons lit up but if you press to the left of the display area the buttons still work.
Press MFG (Top Left)
Press NEXT (Top Right)
The screen idled with some weird looking grid design and status bar so I pressed the Power button and it went to the main printer screen on the display

Hope this helps someone.
Again I am NOT responsible for any failures etc and deny any claims etc but if its not going to work anyway -well —.

I don’t think the average printer user would go through that sort of work-around and risk putting their machine outside its warranty. The printer manufacturers have got it made and are compounding their anti-competitive practices by imposing technical obstructions on purchasers as soon as they try to replace a cartridge with a non-proprietary one.

HP claim that their on-line Instant Ink automatic renewal process saves money over buying replacement cartridges retail. It would be interesting to compare the cost of printing 100 pages of text using a third-party ‘compatible’ ink with using a proprietary HP Instant Ink cartridge. Perhaps Which? would do such a test for us. It would also be interesting to know whether the charges for smaller monthly print runs are disproportionately high compared with those who regularly produce 200-300 pages a month – I think the monthly per-unit charges are tapered in favour of greater consumption which could alter the economics and make the manufacturer’s ink better value than a third-party product bought retail. All worthy of further investigation.

The Instant Ink service allows printing of a fixed number of pages per month, with additional pages being charged at a higher price. When the service was introduced it was pointed out that one word on a page counts as a page. I suppose that anyone who prints photos regularly would get best value for money because this uses far more ink than printing text. It would not suit me because sometimes my monthly use can vary between a handful of pages and more than a ream and printing photos is an exception. What does suit me very well is to have inexpensive third party cartridges.

Which? has looked at Instant Ink: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/printers-and-ink/article/which-printer-should-you-buy/hp-instant-ink-vs-other-types-of-printer-ink

Making a price comparison is further complicated because the amount of ink used by printers varies according to frequency of use. Continuous printing can be considerably cheaper than infrequent use because printers use (or waste) ink during cleaning cycles.

Here’s a link to one US user’s review of HP Instant Ink, see:-https://joesprinterbuyingguide.com/hp-instant-ink-review/

UK prices are listed here:-https://instantink.hpconnected.com/uk/en/l/

In Gloucester Library, customers using the laser printers are charged 10p per B&W A4 page and 80p per colour page, so, even allowing for separate paper costs at about 1p per A4 sheet, the UK Instant Ink prices are potentially less expensive per page than that.

The “Free” HP instant ink plan would appear to suit my typical low volume domestic usage.

Thanks Wavechange and Derek.

Unfortunately the link to the Which? review was undated so I don’t know whether the prices are up to date or the economic balance is the same. I have varying printing requirements from a few to hundreds of pages in black & white and colour, although I don’t print photos. I am careful to select the pages to print and try to avoid printing the white space with a few words that appears in many documents and the verbiage that tends to clog up the ends of reports and e-mails. For work I create I try to adjust the format to make it as economical as possible to print, especially if multiple copies are required. Given all that, I could be better off with Instant Ink. I like the roll-over page allowance from one month to the next and the convenience of not having to go out or on-line to purchase the next batch of cartridges.