The Great Ink Cartridge Conspiracy

by Rich on February 2, 2010

A few years ago in 2007, a Boston man filed a class action lawsuit against the Staples office store in the United States. He accused them of colluding with Hewlett Packard to keep ink cartridge prices high. The lawsuit alleged that HP paid Staples $100 million in market development funds to refrain from selling less expensive third party cartridges. The ink cartridges that were a generic Staples brand are no longer sold in their stores. This forces the hand of the consumer to replace their cartridges with the most expensive manufacturer’s option.

Since printer companies make the bulk of their money with cartridge replacement as opposed to printer sales, companies do everything in their power to push cartridge sales. Some consumers have reported purchasing a new printer just to avoid the cost of expensive printer cartridges. Companies realize this and fluctuate the cost of the cartridges in order to effect consumer behavior.

The ultimate goal of the printer company is to lock consumers into purchasing the products from the manufacturer. If the accusation against Staples and HP is true, eliminating other options from the market is a great way to ensure consumers purchase the one option available to them. Some printer companies have gone even further in ensuring that their printers will lock a consumer into one brand of ink.

These companies are installing chips in their printers that enable only one type of printer cartridge to operate in the printer. These chips disable third party ink cartridges, making them useless. Some ink company representatives say this type of jockeying for market share is common. Many consumers believe it violates anti-trust laws.

HP continues to deny its involvement in anticompetitive practices. They are also accused of giving Staples a cut of each cartridge the store sells. Obviously, this would encourage salespeople to push HP cartridges over all other options. If salespeople can not be trusted to do so, Staples would need to take further measures to eliminate the competition for HP. If the arrangement were found to be true, it would seem as if Staples were working in conjunction with HP to defeat all competition.

There are ways to avoid the high cost of manufacturer printing ink. It may require a bit of research, but if you choose a printer that does not include the exclusivity chip, you can purchase refurbished cartridges or third party cartridges. There is some risk involved with either of these choices, but there are now enough reputable options that if you look hard enough, you can easily find a safe, inexpensive alternative.

Printer ink can be one of the most costly expenses a small business faces. Even those using a printer at home for personal use may find that it is one of their more expensive office expenses. If you are concerned that companies like HP and Staples are abusing their power, consider your third party ink options. This may be the most cost-effective measures a printer owner can take to fill their printing needs.

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