How to Choose an Online Third-Party Ink Vendor

by Rich on July 22, 2009

Buying third-party ink online can save you considerable time and money. But with third-party ink, you don’t get a manufacturer’s guarantee-so it’s important to find a dependable seller.  Not all third-party ink sellers are as good as they seem. Here are a few things you can do to guarantee that you find a reliable seller of high quality recycled or compatible ink cartridges the first time you look.

How do they check for quality? Whether you’re using recycled or compatible cartridges, you’ll need to go with a vendor that checks thoroughly for quality. Recycled cartridge manufacturers shouldn’t just refill used cartridges; they should also check to make sure the plastic casing of the cartridge isn’t cracked and that all internal components are working correctly, and replace or repair as needed. Recycled cartridges should be tested after the refill, and compatible cartridges should be tested thoroughly as well.

What’s their online reputation? Do an online search to determine what people are saying about this particular company. Are customer reviews generally positive, or does there seem to be a trend of malfunctioning cartridges and perfunctory customer service? You can learn a lot by using search engines and online forums to find out who else has bought from this company and what their experience has been.

How long have they been in business? The older a company is, the more likely it provides a quality product and has learned from its mistakes. This certainly isn’t always true, but the third-party ink business is competitive-and you’re more likely to get a good product from a company that has managed to thrive despite the competition.  When possible, choose a company that has been in existence for several years.

Do they stand behind their products? Some online printer ink vendors offer guarantees; some don’t. Find out what happens if your printer ink cartridge doesn’t work as it should. Do you get your money back? Do you have to ship the cartridge back to them at your own expense? Do you have to justify your return? Look for a company that has an easy, hassle-free policy when it comes to returns and exchanges.

What happens if the cartridge causes damage to your printer? The law surrounding original manufacturers’ warranties and third-party ink is still unclear. While most original manufacturers state in their warranties that they won’t accept repairs from damage caused by third-party ink, the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act, a U.S. law, restricts their rights to control which ink customers choose. How it applies to overseas customers is not clear, as well as whether it will force manufacturers to cover damage caused by third-party ink under the warranty.

That means the seller should take extra steps to help customers whose printers have been damaged by third-party ink. Ask your vendor what they would do in this situation. If they tell you they will repair your printer for free, get the promise in writing if it’s not already spelled out in their documentation.

Do they have your brand? Some brands are more difficult to find than others, especially when you’re looking for compatible cartridges. These are cartridges that are reverse engineered using the original specs, and some companies have been successful in suing third-party vendors and preventing them from doing this with their cartridges. As a result, third-party cartridges are less widely available than recycled cartridges-but even those may not be on hand for your brand. Be sure the company you choose carries your brand consistently.

Can you call them? If you have a problem with your cartridge, the best return or exchange policy in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t get in touch with a company representative. Be sure the company has a phone number available where you can reach someone who will tell you more about the company’s return, repair and exchange policies-just in case something goes wrong.

Not every online printer ink vendor is reputable. Do some research into the online reputation of the company you choose. Pick a company with a solid track record, good customer service and high-quality cartridges. Look for one that always has your brand in stock and offers phone service to customers who have problems. If you do, you’re more likely to find a dependable printer ink vendor that can help you save money on your ink.

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