back to article HP Ink should cough up $1.5m for bricking printers using unofficial cartridges – lawsuit

HP Inc customers in the US have asked a California court to sign off on a $1.5m settlement over a firmware update that bricked printers using third-party ink cartridges. Back in 2016, the print and PC business released an update that was programmed to disable cartridges made by third-party suppliers – after 13 September that …

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  1. David 132 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Wait, what?

    The plaintiffs said the settlement fund would be sufficient to pay all valid claims from people who owned printers and experienced print interruptions.

    $1.5million, and between 2.2 and 2.4million claimants?

    So ~68 cents each, even assuming that the lawyers don’t take the lion’s share (unlikely)?

    Well, this is certainly a strong way for HP, Ink. to show their customers just how much they’re valued...

    1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

      Re: Wait, what?

      68 cents? A refund of the cost of printing 3-7 color inkjet pages.

      If they mail a check via US Mail (50 cents) with the cost and labor to print it out, would there be any amount left to give?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wait, what?

      More valued than Equifax customers at 3 pence each.

      Can we get any lower?

      Cough DXC?

    3. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Wait, what?

      So ~68 cents each, even assuming that the lawyers don’t take the lion’s share (unlikely)?

      How much did many have to pay their local ''IT man'' to come and look at the printer, only to realise that it could not be fixed ? The minimum should be that cost, then look at adding in other time spent farting around because of HP's shenanigans -- I think that £200 each is a good starting point.

      Unless HP are made to pay something like this they will just do it again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait, what?

        Unless HP are made to pay something like this they will just do it again.

        Maybe. I looked at the cost per page of their new PageWide range and although the cartridges are expensive, the alleged page count makes it acceptable and the one I have (477dw) is rather good. That said, as soon as it's out of warranty I'll use imitation ink at half the price.

        It's a shame Epson doesn't do a faster model with their ecotank range. That ink is actually *cheaper* than imitation ink..

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Wait, what?

          "That said, as soon as it's out of warranty I'll use imitation ink at half the price."

          Interestingly: For the Z series (Designjet 44 inch units) the ink price is competitive with continuous inking systems.

          It's almost as if they know where they can get away with it. (And for home printing - unless you're using your inkjet every day, don't bother getting an inkjet - they clog if idle - get a laser instead.

          On the other hand if you're printing more than a couple of pages every day, then get a laser instead as they're cheaper.

          If you're getting an inkjet to print photos then get a specialist photo printer or cut a deal with your local photo store.

      2. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

        Re: Wait, what?

        I think a round $1,000 would be more appropriate. It would also send the kind of message to the likes of HP that might prove to be a useful lesson for them.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Wait, what?

          "I think a round $1,000 would be more appropriate."

          The ACCC decision is enough. These class action settlements in the USA are chump settlements. It's almost as if outfits that screw up shop around to find a lawfirm to "sue" them, establish a class using a few stooges and then lowball the settlement before consumers realise what's happened.

          I'm surprised judges aren't wising up to this kind of thing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wait, what?

            Because the judges are (a) elected (b) in a court specifically chosen by the plaintiffs' lawyers, and (c) in on it too. A case is simply business for a judge.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Lexmark next

    I hope they go after Lexmark and all of the other printer manufacturers who make it almost impossible to print if you use anything other than one of their overpriced rip off cartridges

    The printer companies would probably make more money in the long run, if they made the ink and the cost of printing more economical. People would be less loathe to print things off and would use the damn things more often rather than only when they need to.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Lexmark next

      Add to the list Canon.

      I had a nice little inkjet for university work, cost about 120 quid, and the ink cartridges were a reasonable price so I could avoid all the "40 quid printer and 30 quid for ink" nonsense plaguing the market along with non-canon ink/refills.

      Imagine my surprise on switching it on one day and it lets out 13 beeps.

      Hmm.. maunual... only goes to 12.

      Internet...... nothing... search more .. still nothing.... f. it lets open her up and see if somethings jammed/broken.

      1 hammer later... its broken...

      Another search suddenly turns up this nugget of info

      "13 beeps means that the printer has completed 'n' head cleaning cycles and needs to have this reset by pressing paper feed, head cleaning and power on after changing the ink blotter in the bottom of the printer, canon prefers to sell a new printer than publish this info"

      So I bought a cheap epson.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        WTF, Printer Updates = Win10-Malware now?

        Dear HP, Canon, Lexmark executives, you might forget about this, but we won't! Just like Superfish and other anti-consumer scandals, it will affect our next printer buying decision...

        Tech innovation? This is just another example of Rent-Seeking!

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: WTF, Printer Updates = Win10-Malware now?

          my epson r360 has bulk ink tanks and a waste ink potty. it has had its 'pad' reset 4 times. thats well over 250,000 sheets. not bad for an ink jet. bulk tanks cost 20 from ebay and potty was another 10.

          I have an epson r1900 too with ink tanks. cheap as chips to run.

      2. drewsup

        Re: Lexmark next

        Guesbwhat? Epsom does the same, when the waste ink sponge tank is deemed "full" you need to buy a new tank, or find the software that allows you to reset the code

      3. Jakester

        Re: Lexmark next

        ... and on some Epson printers, when the waste-ink pad is "full" according to their algorithm, the printer will no longer print until you send to an Epson repair station to replace the pad and reset the counter. Epson says this is to "... prevent personal injury and/or property damage."

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Lexmark next

      It's not just inkjets with the issue. Laser printers do this as well, plus other naughty tricks.

      One of the big beefs I have with lots of different laser printer manufacturers is how they falsely state that the toner is empty even when there's tons of toner left. HP used to make it increasingly difficult to override this. I remember at my last job a colour HP printer that claimed the black toner was out (4,500 page toner). After managing to delve into the super-hidden-ultra-advanced menu (17 sub-menus down), I managed to find the override toggle to allow the printer to continue printing.

      It managed about another 3,500 pages before the printing became patchy. Hence that so-called "empty" toner was actually about 40% full still when the printer decided to display the "toner out" light and stop working.

      Similar story at home with our little Brother laser printer. That claimed the toner had run out ages ago. A bit of gaffer-tape over the perspex window on the side and it is still printing away perfectly fine over 5 years later.

      My opinion on printer manufacturers in general? Dishonest crooks, the lot of them.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Lexmark next

        "It managed about another 3,500 pages before the printing became patchy."

        In all fairness there are some problems with corona and spitting toner into the outlet filters (which clogs them) that mean HP like to play cautious on this front (Toner is a sub 10-micron plastic particle that can cause silicosis if you inhale it)

        Taking the toner cartridge out and shaking it has been the recommended solution to "empty" indications for decades.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Lexmark next

        It's not just inkjets with the issue. Laser printers do this as well, plus other naughty tricks.

        I know this only too well, as my Samsung colour laser printer decided that after an arbitrary number of pages, the section with the main imaging drum wanted to be replaced, at a cost of about £100. A quick google search and a helpful youtube video later, and I was online ordering a 47 Ohm resistor. Opening the front of the printer, wrapping the legs of the resistor around two of the the pins inside the front cover, and power cycle later, guess what? The count is back to zero, and the printer is still imaging pages perfectly well. Nice try Sammy, but I'm keeping the remaining £99.90.

        No doubt the imaging drum will need replacing some day, but guess what - I'll decide when.

        BTW, they also do a nice little line in replacement waste toner tanks (they have a little window in them that gets occluded when full). Rather than spending £££ on a replacement, emptying the tank into a bin and wiping the window with a cotton bud does the trick nicely.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Lexmark next

          "Rather than spending £££ on a replacement, emptying the tank into a bin and wiping the window with a cotton bud does the trick nicely."

          Remember my comment about silicosis. Tape a freezer bag or other baggie over it and empty into that. then seal and throw out. _Don't_ let that toner fly. It's got a remarkable affinity for getting into mucus membranes (lungs) if it's airborne.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Lexmark next

      "the other printer manufacturers who make it almost impossible to print if you use anything other than one of their overpriced rip off cartridges"

      The problem at the low end is that they've all gone for the Gillette model - the handle(printer) is free, but the blades(consumables) are expensive.

      The difference being that when it comes to printers, most of the complicated bits are in the handle.

      If you can stomach those $40 printers being $90, then the ink prices might come down from $70 a set to $35 (This applies to lasers too - and makers are pulling similar stunts when they detect remanufactured/compatible toner packs onboard)

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Lexmark next

        The difference being that when it comes to printers, most of the complicated bits are in the handle.

        Not strictly true - many inkjets have the print head in the cartridge (not that I'd ever advocate using an inkjet). Monochrome laser printers usually have the imaging drum as part of the toner cartridge, and colour ones as a separate consumable. The only 'complicated' bit is the laser, which these days is a mass produced £0.0001 laser diode, and the control electronics, the most advanced bit of which is probably the voltage switching power supply.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Lexmark next

          "Not strictly true"

          Heads are just piezo thingies. The control electronics are in the printer.

          For laser printers, they're either a laser, rotating mirror and precision focussing assemblies (for colour lasers) or a led array bar(NEC). Either way they're far more complex than the developer roller (which is fairly simple).

          The control electronics in a laser printer is quite sophistocated and is akin to a combination between HDTV and Baird's old mechanically scanned TV systems. That dance is even more complicated for colour. It used to be said that a VHS recorder was the most complicated piece of machinery that had ever been in the consumer environment - that's probably still true, but the colour laser printer is probably the most mechanically critical for timing - a few nanoseconds are important for correctly registered output.

  3. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Terminator

    On the other hand...

    Printer prices are heavily subsidised by ink/toner cartridge sales, so using third-party cartridges and/or refilling using third-party ink is a bit like getting a phone on contract, running off with it after only one payment, then getting Muhammed at the market to unlock it for you.

    Then again, printer manufacturers probably shouldn't be selling these things at a loss in the first place, then duping people into buying expensive cartridges for life. They should just be honest and admit that the printer you just paid £15 for in Tesco actually cost £80 to manufacture, then charge a more realistic price.

    But then deception as a business model seems to be par for the course these days.

    Personally I think it's way past time we consigned dead-tree technology to the bin, next to fax machines, floppy disks and VHS tape recorders.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand...

      "Printer prices are heavily subsidised by ink/toner cartridge sales, so using third-party cartridges and/or refilling using third-party ink is a bit like getting a phone on contract, running off with it after only one payment, then getting Muhammed at the market to unlock it for you."

      It's not remotely like that. It's like only buying stuff when it's on offer.

      1. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        Re: On the other hand...

        Had a friend in college who would buy a new printer, whatever was on the best sale, when his ran out of ink. He'd sell the old printer for about half what he paid for it (super-cheap printers don't last long on a college campus), and at least in his own head he was coming out ahead of buying ink.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: On the other hand...

          >Had a friend in college who would buy a new printer, whatever was on the best sale, when his ran out of ink.

          Bet the local reseller loved this guy! Many printers only come with "get you started" cartridges that are intended to fill the printer with ink and print 10~50 pages.

        2. Jakester

          Re: On the other hand...

          Back in the Epson R200 and R300 days, Epson was really pushing this line of printers to the point that you could buy a new printer with a set of full-capacity cartridges for less than a set of replacement cartridges. I had purchased about 6 of these before they were discontinued and Epson started selling printers with a "starter set" of cartridges.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Oh Homer - Re: On the other hand...

      Yep! Let's get rid of toilet paper too!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the other hand...

      As a HP-er, HP has moved away from selling printers at a lost and using the sales of ink cartridges to offset these loses.

      As what many of you have pointed out, ink cartridges are simply overpriced. The selling price for ink cartridges is at least 10 times of the cost price (manufacturing, labour). There is not much R&D cost involved as the technology behind thermal inkjet printing is pretty much stagnant and good enough.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: On the other hand...

        or he could have bought ink from ebay with cartridges that reset themselves when you take them out.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand...

      "Personally I think it's way past time we consigned dead-tree technology to the bin, next to fax machines, floppy disks and VHS tape recorders."

      Reality is catching up with your personal feelings.

      Until about 6 years ago our fleet printing volume had been growing about 10-15% per year, plateaued at about 2-3 million prints/year for 3-4 years and has started declining.

      Other organisations have reported similar observations. I suspect that phablets and big smartphones have a lot to do with it.

    5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    broader scope

    personally, think there should be a wider rule - if a device has a function/feature when you buy it, the manufacturer should not be able to remove that feature afterwards unless there is a compelling (and security-only) reason for doing so - and a reason that will stand up to outside scrutiny. Alternatively, you get to ask for a refund (or exchange - for a new product that has "missing" functionality).

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: broader scope

      the manufacturer should not be able to remove that feature afterwards

      You don't need a wider rule ... most devices have a (special purpose) computer inside. The manufacturer changing what it does, without the explicit agreement of the owner, surely falls under the computer misuse act.

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: broader scope

      personally, think there should be a wider rule - if a device has a function/feature when you buy it, the manufacturer should not be able to remove that feature afterwards

      "We are altering the driver, pray we do not alter it further..."

  5. Zebo-the-Fat
    Thumb Down

    My printer

    It's my printer, I paid for it and I own it. If I want to fill it with a mixture of carbon black and liquefied dog turds I should be able to it

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: My printer

      My God man. Who told you our secret ink formula? You can expect to be hearing from our attorneys.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My printer

        Bones, is that you back from the dead?

  6. emullinsabq
    Joke

    old school

    Meanwhile, everyone in my office is learning calligraphy. Two birds with one stone, no office pkg and no computer either!

    1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

      Re: old school

      Next step is to teach them arithmetics:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Feeling_of_Power

  7. lsces

    When do we get compensation in the UK?

    Just had to return £20 worth of cartridges to Viking Direct as the one I replaced rendered the printer unusable. The replacements cost over £60 ... what was that about printer ink being more valuable than gold? What is even more amusing of cause is the bags to return the empty cartridges which you can't use when they are refilled. Anybody do an A3 printer that takes bottles of ink?

    1. Justin Clift

      Re: When do we get compensation in the UK?

      Epson has some "bottles of ink" friendly printers:

      https://epson.com/ecotank-super-tank-printers

      Some of the models there print A3 and bigger.

      Haven't tried any of them personally though.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: When do we get compensation in the UK?

      Re: A3 printer with continuous ink supply system:

      Epson & Canon, using third-party inks:

      https://www.cityinkexpress.co.uk/cheap-printer-bundles

      Although their ink systems do support various Brother A4 with "occassional A3" printers. suggest you email.

      If you can afford the US shipping costs, take alook at: https://adaptiveink.com

      Basically, I would start by searching for CISS and then find resellers who are prepared to sell a printer+CISS bundle and thus prepared to take on the compatibility and support issues.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: When do we get compensation in the UK?

      "Just had to return £20 worth of cartridges to Viking Direct"

      HereEndethTheLesson: Never put Viking Direct "compatibles" in anything you want to remain "working". Even if they actually 'go', the actual ink quality will be appalling. (and their 'own brand' pens are crap too)

  8. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Printer inovation

    Is now ink DRM.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Printer inovation

      "Is now ink DRM."

      Interestingly, it seems as thought this is the last hurrah for DRM on inkjets. Lasers are eating their lunch and the makers know it. They've already given up on DRM at the high end, so they're counting on vendor lock-in to the gullible fools who buy on cheapest possible purchase price instead of TOC.

      1. MrReal

        Re: Printer inovation

        After my Epsom head dried up and I had to bin a £45 colour ink cartridge + the printer I went to a Dell colour laserjet that wasn't meant for printing photographs but actually does a pretty good job: on any paper and doesn't run if it gets wet. I'll never go back to inkjet now.

        HP is not popular for other reasons too: http://stophp.uk/

        The type of firm that bricks your printer for daring to by cheaper consumables doesn't seem to have any morals. I don't buy HP anymore.

  9. Kev99 Bronze badge

    In all likelihood, not a penny will go out. What will go out are coupons good for X cents off the next purchase of HP ink. Since HP charges around $34 a cartridge, and there's a whopping 8 -10 microliters in a cartridge, that comes out to around $2K a gallon. Yup, sixty cents is really going to break them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The 'Trust' Factor: Toxic Patches / Firmware Updates

    The tech world already has a major problem with trust never mind enterprise / home users being slow to patch. This just adds to the problem and destroys good faith. Whichever way you stand on this, for / or against HP, its the lack of transparency / disclosure that's the most worrying.

    Not unlike how Microsoft stuffed Win10 upgrade malware / telemetry into Win7 updates labelled as something beneficial. Printers should come with warnings that a printer is priced deceptively low because HP intend to extract money later: *Your future printing experience may change*.

    In our house we need a printer right now, but this just makes us hold off!

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: The 'Trust' Factor: Toxic Patches / Firmware Updates

      Get a laser printer rather than an inkjet, particularly if you're happy with a monochrome printer, because they have one or two advantages over inkjets.

      For starters, if its only used infrequently it won't clog because there's no ink in it to dry out and block the print head. Even it its not been used for a month or two it will fire up and print with no fuss or cleaning issues.

      Epson and HP printers use control codes, ESC/P for Epson and PCL for HP Lasers, that have been essentially unchanged for decades apart from adding extensions to support features appearing on newer printers. This means that a new printer in either range will work happily with an older driver, which can help a lot if you use older software. For instance, I was able to do anything I needed (in monochrome) in the way of printing letters, reports, envelopes etc. using a driver developed for an Epson MX-80 (9-pin dot matrix) to control an Epson Stylus 850 colour inkjet. Similarly, a driver originally set up for use with an HP Laserjet 2 worked perfectly with a Laserjet 5 and is now working just as well with my new HP Laserjet Pro M402dne.

      BTW, the Laserjet M202dne came with a free 'starter' cartridge which is claimed to be good for 1500 pages. At my usual printer usage this will keep me going for several years. The full cartridge does twice that: 3100 pages. Given the capacity of these cartridges, printing should cost about 2.6p per page after I've used up the free starter cartridge. That is £80 with free delivery for an HP 26A cartridge at the cheapest current retail price found with a short search. Other estimates: 3.26p/page at Amazon prices (£91 plus a tenner P&P) or under 1p/page (eBay, £20 + guessed fiver for P&P). This probably makes a decent mono laser cheaper to run than an inkjet.

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