21 September 2016
Consumer group CHOICE is investigating whether printer maker HP has breached Australian Consumer Law following reports the company issued a firmware update to block consumers using cheaper third party ink cartridges.
Last week it was reported that many HP printers with third party ink cartridges displayed error messages such as "cartridge problem", "one or more cartridges are missing or damaged" or "older generation cartridge" following a firmware update issued by the printer giant.
"We're concerned that HP is throwing its weight around in order to lock consumers into buying its expensive ink, taking away consumer choice and treating its customers terribly," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
"Even worse, it's doing this after consumers have already bought the product, meaning they haven't given their customers the opportunity to vote with their wallets and buy a different printer.
"If consumers bought an HP printer relying on the fact that it could use non-HP ink, and HP has unilaterally taken that functionality away, then there is a risk that the company is breaching consumer law."
In particular, CHOICE is assessing whether HP may have misled or deceived their customers under section 18 of consumer law.
"After years of being able to use non-HP ink, consumers have a reasonable expectation that they will be able to continue to choose which ink they will use," Mr Godfrey says.
"HP ink, at $5128 per litre, already costs substantially more than luxury goods like Chanel No 5 perfume, which is a comparative steal at $3514 per litre. 
"Consumers are already being asked to pay exorbitant prices for HP ink, and now the company is reportedly cutting off consumer access to cheaper competitors.
"In short, consumers were sold a product on one basis, and now HP has substantially changed the way its product operates through a behind-the-scenes firmware update."
Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669
Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia's largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.