Shameless spin - costly ink and digital TV cables

Tricks used to get you to pay more for printing and TV viewing.

CHOICE says consumers need to beware of two high tech rip offs - printer ink which costs $20 a teaspoon and uses microchips to prevent you using cheaper alternatives; and digital TV cables which can cost $300+ but perform no better than $40 versions.

Tests with 13 multifunction printers showed the cost of ink could be extortionate. If you printed five B+W pages, three colour pages and one photo every day for a year costed over three years one brand would cost $9436 to run!

While you can buy cheaper genuine replacement cartridges overseas you often can't use them with the Australian- bought printer because the microchip attached to the ink cartridge must match the country.

"The printer manufacturers own the patents for the chips which means third party competitors can't legally copy them. The competition is frozen out and consumers pay more," said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

In another case buyers of digital TVs with accessories like DVD players and home entertainment systems are being pushed into buying high margin connecting cables costing upwards of $300 when there are just as good options for $40-$60.

CHOICE panel tests on the HDMI cables needed to connect these digital devices have shown no statistically significant difference in picture and sound quality between the high end versions, which can cost up to $600, and their much cheaper rivals.

But some stores and installers of these HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) products only stock, or recommend, the much more expensive products with now-discredited claims they somehow perform better.

Even in the segment of cables up to ten metres, where you can pay up to six times more for some brands, there was no appreciable difference.

"Those with vested interests have been over-hyping the benefits of shelling out top dollar for HDMI cables with nothing but bluff to back up their case," said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

"Our testing shows clearly that for once you don't always get what you pay for and there are perfectly acceptable cables available at reasonable prices. The problem is that stores are not always making consumers aware of all the options."

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