Five Things Printer Manufacturers Say-That You Shouldn't Listen To

by Rich on August 5, 2009

Ever wonder why printers can be a bargain, but the ink is so expensive? It’s no accident. Printer manufacturers practically give the printers away so they can make more money later by selling you ink. The price of ink is so high that consumers are starting to revolt, however-and many people buy printer ink and toner cartridges manufactured by third-party companies to save money.

This isn’t good for the original manufacturers’ business model-but rather than pricing ink and toner more reasonably, they go out of their way to persuade customers to stick with their own cartridges despite the cost. Here are a few things printer manufacturers will tell you-that you should probably take with a grain of salt. Or an entire handful.

3rd party ink is of lesser quality than original ink. Printer manufacturers often insist that if you use 3rd party ink, you’re almost guaranteed to get a much lesser quality print than if you use the manufacturer’s brand. Multiple consumer tests have shown this isn’t true. Some 3rd-party ink manufacturers use reverse engineering to design their cartridges and ink from the original manufacturers’ specifications-and in many cases the quality is very close to what original manufacturers produce. This is true for black and white, colour and photo printer ink.

3rd-party ink will break your printer. Printer manufacturers claim that they want to dissuade consumers from using 3rd-party printer ink because it’s extremely likely to damage your printer irreparably. They claim this about most 3rd-party printer ink, including that manufactured by national office supply stores. This is absolutely untrue. Millions of people use third-party printer ink every day without breaking their printers-and without breaking their budgets.

If you use 3rd-party printer ink, we’ll void your warranty. Printer manufacturers almost always state in their warranty that they won’t cover damages caused by third-party printer ink-and will often try to twist the issue to let consumers think that if they use third-party ink at all, it will void the entire warranty-regardless of whether the damage was really caused by the third-party ink.

In reality, the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act prohibits manufacturers from limiting customers’ choices in printer accessories in this way. However, it’s unlikely that printer manufacturers would be able to legally void a warranty if a customer used third-party printer ink if the damage wasn’t caused by the ink. Still, this is a legal gray area that hasn’t been substantively challenged in court.

Printers are perfectly calibrated to work only with original ink. Printer manufacturers claim that their original ink has been calibrated with great precision to work as well as possible with their specific printers and paper.  Of course, they have a reason to say that-so that you’ll only use their printer ink and their paper with their printers.  In truth, printers can be used with third party ink and off-brand paper with no ill effects, and many consumers save money by buying cheaper paper and other consumables from third-party companies.

Those smart chips are there to help you. Many printer manufacturers have developed printer ink cartridges designed with “smart chips” that will tell you when the cartridge is out of ink. They claim the chips are there to add to customer convenience.

However, those smart chips have often been found to tell consumers that cartridges are out of ink before they’re actually empty-and sometimes they’ll freeze up the printer until they are replaced, forcing consumers to buy more ink too soon. They can also make it more difficult for people to use third-party ink; some printers won’t accept recycled or refilled printer ink cartridges unless the smart chip has been replaced or recalibrated to tell the printer the cartridge is new.

Printer ink manufacturers have an underlying motive for saying third-party printer ink cartridges might break your printer, print low-quality documents, and void your warranty-because they want to keep you buying their own expensive ink. The bottom line is this: the manufacturers aren’t impartial, and the things they say about ink cartridges must sometimes be taken with a grain of salt. Listen to people you know who have had experience using third-party cartridges, or buy your own and try them out-before you let the original manufacturers convince you to spend more money.

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