A well-known computer brand has disabled the printers of customers using ink cartridges from rival companies.
Hewlett-Packard, or HP, has sparked fury after issuing a recent “firmware” update which blocks customers from using cheaper, non-HP ink cartridges in its printers.
Customers’ devices were remotely updated in line with new terms which mean their printers will not work unless they are fitted with approved ink cartridges.
It prevents customers from using any cartridges other than those fitted with an HP chip, which are often more expensive. If the customer tries to use a non-HP ink cartridge, the printer will refuse to print.
HP printers used to display a warning when a “third-party” ink cartridge was inserted, but now printers will simply refuse to print altogether.
The printer company said it issued the update to reduce the risk of malware attacks, saying “third-party cartridges that use non-HP chips or circuitry can pose risks to the hardware performance, print quality, and security.” It also said it used regular updates to improve its services, such as introducing alerts for some customers telling them when their ink is running low.
However, according to HP’s website, the company also blocks the use of rival cartridges in order to “maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property”.
Outraged customers have flooded social media with complaints, saying they felt “cheated” by the update. HP ink cartridges can cost more than double the price of third-party offerings.
This is not the first time HP has angered its customers by blocking the use of other ink cartridges.
The firm has been forced to pay out millions in compensation to customers in America, Australia and across Europe since it first introduced dynamic security measures back in 2016.
Just last year the company paid $1.35m (£1m) to consumers in Belgium, Italy, Spain and Portugal who had bought printers not knowing they were equipped with the cartridge-blocking feature.
Last year consumer advocates called on the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate whether branded ink costs and “dynamic security” measures were fair to consumers, after finding that lesser-known brands of ink cartridges offered better value for money than major names.
The consumer group Which? said manufacturers were “actively blocking customers from exerting their right to choose the cheapest ink and therefore get a better deal”.
A spokesman for HP said printers using “dynamic security” are labelled as such on its product packaging, technical materials, and various online materials.
They said that only some of its printers are equipped with dynamic security measures, though it did not specify which ones. According to its website, all HP standard printers will block cartridges using a non-HP chip or circuitry.
The spokesman added some third-party cartridges reuse the HP chip or electronic circuitry and those that do will function as normal.
Some customers can choose to disable HP’s cartridge-blocking feature in the printer’s settings, HP said, but it depends on the printer model. Others will be stuck with a printer that only works if they commit to spending more on ink cartridges approved by HP.