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HP Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Printer Firmware Updates Limiting Ink Choices

ByHuey Yee Ong

Apr 27, 2024
HP Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Printer Firmware Updates Limiting Ink Choices

HP Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Printer Firmware Updates Limiting Ink Choices

Tech giant HP is currently embroiled in a class action lawsuit, with plaintiffs alleging that the company implemented firmware updates to their printers that prevent the use of third-party ink cartridges.

This legal battle, highlighted by a detailed report from The Register, underscores ongoing concerns about consumer rights and corporate practices in the technology sector.

Allegations of a Bait-and-Switch Tactic

The lawsuit, initiated in January, accuses HP of executing a “bait-and-switch” tactic to monopolize the aftermarket for replacement ink cartridges. According to legal documents, HP has made efforts to dismiss the lawsuit but faced resistance from attorneys representing printer owners.

These attorneys argue that their clients were never under contractual obligation to purchase exclusively HP-branded ink and that the company’s actions to restrict third-party ink use through firmware updates amount to exploiting customers’ investment in their existing printers.

Previous Settlements and Ongoing Disputes

This legal conflict is not the first of its kind for HP.

In a previous lawsuit, the company settled for over $1.3 million after complaints about similar practices. Despite this, plaintiffs claim that HP reneged on earlier agreements not to reinstitute what it refers to as “dynamic security.” This feature was reportedly reactivated in automatic firmware updates in 2022 and 2023, without providing customers the option to opt-out.

Typically, users are unaware of these updates, which are downloaded automatically when the printer is connected to the internet.

HP’s Defense

Further complicating the issue, HP has argued that its firmware updates do not outright block non-HP ink cartridges but are intended to ensure that only cartridges with an HP security chip are used.

In a legal filing from March, HP’s lawyers stated that the company clearly communicates to consumers that its printers are designed to operate with cartridges that contain HP chips, although they do not exclusively block other cartridges that reuse HP’s security chips.

HP’s spokesperson, Katie Derkits, has declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Meanwhile, HP CEO Enrique Lores defended the firmware updates, suggesting they protect consumers from potential malware risks associated with third-party cartridges—a claim for which there is limited evidence, as reported by Wired. Lores also noted that HP operates at a loss on printer sales, making up for this through ink sales and services like their “Instant Ink” subscription, which aims to secure longer-term customer relationships.

The lawsuit also touches on broader industry practices. A Washington Post investigation last year revealed that many manufacturers sell printers at a loss or minimal profit, relying on ink sales to generate revenue, often at prices significantly higher than those of competitors.

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Featured Image courtesy of by_nicholas/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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