/ 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.

JMac says:
19 July 2019

I have used 3rd party inks with my HP printer for the last 3years and now I am only able to use their own very expensive inks. Apparently it only costs pennies to make ink cartridges. I assume it is due to the firmware update. I don’t mind joining the debate but what’s the point if the companies we are dealing with continue to lock us out of using cheaper inks. If this is illegal, can’t we do something more pro-active?

20 August 2019

Same with us we as a retired couple can not afford over £60 for replacement inks, yet we must have them to live in the modern day world, this cant be legal, It is corporatism at an alarming rate !!!!!!!!!!

Adi says:
4 August 2019

I recently updated the software on my Epsom XP445 printer, since then I have had messages saying the ink cartridges aren’t fitted correctly or are incompatible. The printer will not print legible text even after changing the relevant cartridge. Is this the end of so called compatible and cheaper cartridges?

It won’t take long for the third-party manufacturers and suppliers of the compatible cartridges to realise that the market for their products has gone and no more will be available. The printer companies will then have an exclusive monopoly which they can control not only through the installed software in their machines but also via the internet for those printers like mine that have their own e-mail address and regularly communicate with ‘mother’. I don’t use third-party inks but I have every sympathy with those who do or who wish to be more in control of their own facilities. Independent supply also applies competitive pressure to the market.

Until replacing them recently with HP machines we had Brother units which were getting old and tired, but they had the advantage that we could use manufacturer’s and independent inks interchangeably without any problems whatsoever.

I’m sure Epson have been trying to bring that about for at least the last decade.

But to what extent does the average consumer think about cost per page when buying a new printer?

I still also “make my own” fun by refilling ink cartridges on my Canon MP750.

If it were to ever stop working, I might be tempted to replace it with a monochrome laser printer.

After a recent visit to a certain local store, I see these start at pocket money prices and typically claim 100 pages per toner cartridge. From that basis, I’d be content to pay about £100 per cartridge, to match the page charge at my local library.

bill says:
8 August 2019

I had a new HP3630 cartridge that started playing up so I went and bought a supermarket re-manufactured one but all I get is a flashing light and an empty/missing ink thing. when I put the genuine one back in ( That does’nt work ) the printers fine but no way will the reman ones play. HP and others are definitely making sure you can only use their ink cartridges when they actually work that is I used to buy Epsom printers until they built the print heads into the printer itself and if it was’nt used for a bit the printer was useless as the heads would dry and clog up. we are being taken for a ride.

Gary Kibblewhite says:
12 August 2019

I do a lot of colour printing for a charity, at my cost. Following Which’s advice, I always use third party inks. Recently my old HP gave up so, two weeks ago, i bought a new HP OfficeJet Pro 6970. It was advertised as “instant ink ready”. During the setup I declined the “instant ink” option. I also made sure that I disabled all updates and have not installed a suggested firmware update. I purchased cartridges from two of the Which recommended suppliers, Refresh and Smart Ink. Neither of them are accepted by the printer. I tried a workaround that involved purchasing genuine HP cartridges and then reinstalling the remanufactured ones. This didn’t work either. Refresh have been very helpful and even sent me cartridges from another manufacturer. These didn’t work either. However, both the “instant ink “ and the genuine HP cartridges are accepted by the printer. I tried to return the printer to the supplier but they refused as I have disposed of the original packaging. Refresh tell me that they have reported the issue to HP and Refresh has offered to issue credit for the cartridges when returned. Smart ink haven’t been so helpful but have just issued credit and told me to bin the cartridges sent. I have read the previous posts and it appears that it affects not only HP but Epson, Lexmark, Canon too.
Despite Which insisting that printer manufacturers have signed up to a “ we will not block 3rd party inks” initiative it now means that I have a brand new HP printer that I can’t afford to use! Thanks a bundle HP,
As previous posts request, Which should do something about it and lobby Government as, unlike previous complaints, this is happening on a brand new printer and not the result of any updates. I am willing to bet that a small cartel has been formed and all the printer makers are involved.
PLEASE Which, do something about it!

It does not look as if anything is going to happen, Gary. Perhaps it would be worth raising this with the CMA, who are responsible for tackling anti-competitive behaviour: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tell-the-cma-about-a-competition-or-market-problem I don’t see a voluntary agreement from manufacturers as sufficient. As you say, it’s not just one or two manufacturers’ printers that have been affected.

I’ve never had a problem with using Internet Ink cartridges in my two HP printers and I assume that most people use third party ink without problem. If it happened to all users there would be clear evidence of anti-competitive action.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, there have been a number of comments about 3rd party cartridges not working in some printers. Can Which? (Which? Computing?) tell us exactly what is happening and whether anything can be, or is being, done to stop the problem.

Gary Kibblewhite says:
12 August 2019

Thanks wavechange, I will contact the CMA. I guess your printers weren’t made in the last few months, if so….I’m sure you will nurture them! As you know, most people don’t bother to complain about issues like this, they try and eventually give up through lack of response.
However, following all the recent posts on your blog and HP’s ( and others) decision to start playing hard-ball by preventing new printers from accepting remanufactured cartridges, I am sure your blog will soon be even busier.

One of my printers is old but the other one is less than three years old. I have never registered for HP’s Instant Ink service (but do not know if that is relevant) or done any firmware updates (which has often been implicated in rejection of cartridges).

Please let us know how you get on with the CMA. I absolutely agree with what you say about people not complaining or giving up too easily.

I presume printer cartridges, and rejection by printers, is a Europe-wide problem? If so, should the EU not be taking action? Maybe they don’t see any need.

I think the voluntary agreement was as a result of action in the US and here is an article about the problem in Australia: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/03/hp_inc_to_compensate_buyers_for_blocking_third_party_ink_cartridges/

AJ Wrigley says:
12 August 2019

I am having problem printing from my HP 3520 printer. I have found that using Samsung print driver from my tablet and phone enables me to use the printer, but I am unable to print from my laptop. It directs me to purchase genuine cartridges from HP store. I think that this practice is a form of profiteering forcing customers to purchase supplies direct from manufacturer.

It would be interesting to see an explanation of this from HP. With many of the reports of cartridges being rejected there is the possibility of something wrong with the third party cartridges or a fault with the printer, but the fact that you can print from some devices excludes these possibilities and I cannot see any explanation other than deliberately blocking use of these cartridges. Thanks for your report.

A good test would probably be whether you can make a copy of a document.

William Mason says:
14 August 2019

My Epson XP455 has just stopped using 3rd Party Cartridges. Unfortunately, I have an important presentation the following day and unable to complete my printing!! It’s extortion, imposing a monopoly and stifling a competive market place for printer ink cartridges. Surely this is illegal and Epson and others should be subject to a class action? When I purchased my Printer, I didn’t sign an agreement with Epson to only buy their extortionately priced cartridges.

Have you checked the small print in the terms & conditions? It’s possible that you have inadvertently allowed them to block your use of other manufacturers’ inks.

June TRAILL says:
16 August 2019

I have a WF 7620 series which has just stopped using compatible inks – it has been a nightmare just when we need the colour printer and copying facility for a project. Have tried all the proposed solutions without joy – am going to have to bin and will NEVER buy EPSON again. I’ve had HP for over 25 years and NEVER had a problem – that’s what I’ll be buying next.

David Hicks says:
26 August 2019

Using HP7720 – also stopped accepting alternative cartridges

I have stopped the company from buying any future HP printers and products

Surely I have the right to use any cartridge of my choice – same as I have the same right to stop using HP printers and other devices if I choose

Surely HP must realise they will be the ultimate losers in the long run ?

HP will probably pick up customers from disgruntled users of other brands. At present HP and Epson are probably swapping customers or pushing them to use their own cartridges.

I am not aware of any manufacturer declaring that they never block third party cartridges.

AngiB says:
1 September 2019

I am using an Officejet 6500A – which I got from my dad. I run a small business from home, and don’t have massive profits. I cannot afford the equivalent of $250 in my country for genuine cartridges. I bought third party cartridges a few months back for roughly $40 – and they worked great. Suddenly my printer is displaying the “cartridge not found” error and refuses to print. It’s hurting my business tremendously. What can I do? How do I get around this?

Unless the problem occurred as soon as you replaced a cartridge or updated the printer firmware, it seems unlikely that the printer has been blocked from using third party cartridges. I suggest removing and replacing the cartridge.

I had a similar problem after installing a new third party cartridge in an HP printer and it was because the ‘chip’ had fallen off and was in the bag.

Best of luck.

AnglB-as Wavechange quite rightly says the big manufacturers of printers ,mostly USA are blocking the use of third party cartridges in their machines.
They are,in essense, actually ink manufacturers as that’s where they make a very big profit on ,this has already been taken up in the USA by the Federal Authorities but the companies can afford top US attorneys who put forward questionable technical points and won the day.
As the companies are American and globalization is in force along with a coming US/UK “trade deal ” I cannot see the UK taking concrete action against them .

Its been quoted by HMG that EU laws will end and the UK will be treated as a foreign country well in reality (please check up ) as far as trade with the USA is concerned ,and yes I have seen the US government documents the UK is a foreign country.
What I am getting at and don’t waste your time looking for a way round this on the web,
is that firmware updates (downloads ) have blocked your printer.
Its possible to reprogramme this but a software engineer would charge at least the price of the printer, I wish I could give you more optimistic news but only heavy pressure on HMG to bring out legislation to change it locally (UK) would have an effect but knowing America,s present overseas policy and coming “trade deal ” it would take a brave British government to go against US manufacturing conglomerates.

DerekP says:
1 September 2019

Hi AnglB, other errors can also occur, for example see:-https://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Inkjet-Printing/Cartridge-missing-or-damaged-Officjet-6500-Wireless/m-p/210447#M265805

With HP and others working so hard to block 3rd party ink, this tends to distract us from other problems that can occur…

Andrea says:
2 September 2019

Would a continuous ink feed printer solve this problem?

Yes it would Andrea but they are a lot dearer as manufacturers don’t benefit from supplying their expensive ink and so are not heavily subsidised.

Shaun says:
3 September 2019

I have a Epson XP-225
A dialogue appears before printing, something like ‘You are not using Epson cartridges, printing is better with genuine Epson cartridges’.
It will not print properly, with large areas missing and shifting of parts of the image, as well as generally very blurry. It was ok to begin with some months ago, but has became impossible to use with third party cartridges.
I believe that malicious software is installed with these printers, timed to fail when used with third party cartridges. As there is no reason why printing should have this many errors. I should not have purchased this printer, it is a nasty piece of work.

That might just be a problem with the cartridge or the printer. Some people have reported problems with third party cartridges stopping working after a firmware update, and that is clear evidence of blocking use of cartridges.

Printed to my Epson from my iphone. Could not continue without accepting the new terms on the iphone App I have used many times before. This has clearly updated my printer firmware which now does not recognise the cartridges I have been using for over a year.

It would be interesting to know if the printer still works from a computer. Is there an error message when you try to print from the phone?

Lynn Griffin-Roberts says:
Today 17:56

Just updated firmware on our Epson XP440 which has third party cartridges installed. Once the new firmware updated the printer said the ink cartridges were not recognized. This ia maddening since the Epson ones are so damn expensive. So….here I am. printer rendered unless unless I pay for the Epson ink. Can you help?

Sorry Lynn gone are the days when a quick trip to a website told you to do -A-B or C , that upset the “ink companies ” as they are called in the States so they decided to go “straight to nukes ” and downloaded a firmware revision .

Can it be overcome ??– yes if you pay a software engineer to change it back to the previous firmware level ,but it costs the price of a cheap printer about $40/50 .

Dont allow updates , make sure MS Windows doesn’t overrule you as sneakily Redmond and the “ink companies ” have got together and MS Windows download them under—– “Security updates ” so you must block the printers programming AND Windows ” security update” for Epson , unfortunately this might leave you open to attack from hackers via your printer .

As a member of the EFF have a read of-