HP is blocking third-party printer ink again

HP is preventing more customers from using third-party ink with their printers. Numerous reports scattered across Reddit, Twitter, and the HP community forum suggest that a recent printer firmware update is blocking the use of non-HP ink as part of the company’s stringent “dynamic security” policy, as first reported by Ars Technica.

First introduced in 2016, dynamic security is part of HP’s cartridge authentication process the company says should “protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property.” This means barring the use of ink or toner cartridges that do not contain “new or reused HP chips or electronic circuitry” in some printers, something HP has already faced criticism and several class action lawsuits over.

Despite this, it seems HP’s expanding its dynamic security policy to more devices that were once compatible with non-HP cartridges. One Reddit user, u/grhhull, says they’re no longer able to use third-party ink cartridges with their HP printer. Instead of displaying a bypassable message that indicates HP can’t guarantee the quality of their print, u/grhhull says their printer won’t use a third-party cartridge at all.

“The indicated cartridges have been blocked by the printer firmware because they contain a non-HP chip,” the message shown on the screen of u/grhhull’s printer reads. “This printer is intended to work only with new or reused cartridges that have a new or reused HP chip.” According to u/grhhull, an HP customer support specialist told them that this is part of a “recent update.”

In 2020, HP reached a $1.5 million settlement with customers in the US as part of a class-action lawsuit that claimed the company’s firmware acted as “malware” by “adding, deleting or altering code, diminishing the capabilities of HP printers, and rendering the competitors’ supply cartridges incompatible with HP printers.” The company also paid out millions to customers affected by dynamic security in the European Union and Australia after barring users from installing more affordable third-party ink cartridges.

As a small concession to customer complaints, HP issued an optional update in 2016 that removes dynamic security, but the change, confusingly, applies only to a set of specific models — some of which HP requires to be made before December 1st, 2016. While it still remains unclear which HP printers have dynamic security installed, online posts indicate that the issue has spread to a number of models, including the OfficeJet Pro 6970, OfficeJet Pro 6968, OfficeJet 6950, and OfficeJet 7740.

This tracks with recent firmware updates released in December 2022 and January 2023 that note the inclusion of “dynamic security measures, which are used to block cartridges using a non-HP chip or modified or non-HP electronic circuitry.” They also state that “periodic firmware updates will maintain the effectiveness of the dynamic security measures and block cartridges that previously worked.” The Verge reached out to HP with a request for more information, and we’ll update this article if we hear back.

As HP’s net printing revenue slides, this move seems like a desperate attempt to lock users into its ecosystem. My DeskJet 4100 already gives me enough trouble, and now that its most recent firmware update indicates that it could stop accepting third-party ink at any time, I’m seriously considering switching to another printer brand if I don’t have the option to use third-party ink in the future.

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