Who? calls for action against printer ink that costs 7 times more than Dom Pérignon champagne

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Who? calls on regulators to take action against printer giants discourage and even prevent consumers from using competitively priced third-party ink, as his research shows that brand-name ink can cost up to seven times more than Dom Pérignon champagne.

Yet significant price differences, nearly half (49%) of those questioned by Which? continue to use brand printer ink instead of cheaper alternatives that still deliver good print quality.

Who? found a set of replacement cartridges for the Epson Workforce Pro WF3820DWF from Epson.co.uk for £111.99. That means a customer replacing their ink three times a year can expect to pay upwards of £330, but a third-party alternative that still delivers good quality. impression cost less than £140 for three replacement sets, a saving of over £180.

Printer the ink is one of the most expensive liquids on Earth and at £1.78 per ml the Epson printer the ink in the example above was found to be more than seven times more expensive per ml than a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne (£180 a bottle, 24p per ml).

A common consumer concern is that their printer may not be compatible with third-party ink cartridges – a notion printer manufacturers are eager to push in order to sell their original brand ink.

However, in the Which? survey, only 4% of inkjet printer owners discovered that a third-party cartridge would not work in their printer. Many third-party brands also offer warranties if their cartridges fail and some will even replace the printer in the unlikely event that their cartridge causes irreparable damage.

Incompatibility is not a completely unfounded concern. Some HP printers are designed to prevent customers from using third-party ink by employing what they call “dynamic security”, which recognizes cartridges with a non-HP chip and stops them working.

HP claims this protects customers and gives them the best impression experience, but Which? regularly show that certain third-party inks offer excellent value for money impression and are highly recommended by its members. Other manufacturers promote the use of “approved”, “genuine”, or “guaranteed” cartridges on their websites and in instruction manuals.

HP recently settled a dispute brought on behalf of European consumers who were upset that a secret firmware update introducing the dynamic failsafe feature prevented them from using third-party manufactured supplies with a range of HP printers.

And although it is now possible to remove the “dynamic security” functionality of some HP printersthe process is convoluted and cannot be applied to all models.

Said Lisa Barber, Which one? IT editor:

“Our research shows that third-party inks can offer good value for money and produce good quality prints for a fraction of the cost of their high-end counterparts, so it is very concerning that printer manufacturers discourage consumers from using them.

“We are asking the competition regulator to investigate the trademarks printer ink prices, with a particular focus on manufacturers actively preventing customers from exercising their right to choose the cheapest ink and therefore getting a better deal.

Chris Price


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