Tech

HP has found a new way to add ink cartridge DRM to your printer

WTF?! Just when you thought printer manufacturers couldn’t find another way to add DRM to your printer, HP is ready to prove that there is always a way. The International Imaging Technology Council has now accused the company of “greening” its products to hide questionable business practices related to HP+ printers.

When HP doesn’t brick its printers with poorly coded firmware that remains unpatched for weeks, the company is hard at work finding new ways to prevent its customers from using third-party inks for fear leave money on the table for other companies.

This behavior has put HP in trouble in Europe and the US, which is why last year it agreed to pay $1.35 million in damages to customers affected by printer cartridge DRM fraud. This is due to a feature the company introduced in 2016 called Dynamic Security, which was supposedly designed to help them avoid poor quality inks, but turned out to be more of a reaction to competing vendors cutting one of HP’s biggest revenue streams by using relatively inexpensive inks. and toner. cartridges.

How marked The Verge, HP was already working on a new way to scam consumers back in 2020 when everyone’s attention was focused on a small and invisible threat that put large parts of the world on lockdown. At that time the company described it’s both “the most advanced and simplest printing solution on the market” and a promise that “each printed page is balanced by an investment that helps protect and restore forests in equal measure.”

What’s interesting about this scheme is that it’s disguised as an offer that attracts a lot of consumers looking for a better deal for their printing needs. There’s a good reason why Amazon’s top selling printer is HP Desktop 2755e. For $95, the company offers a wireless color printer that can also scan documents and comes with six months of free ink delivered to your door whenever your cartridges run low.

The last part is important because nothing is free in the printer industry. On paper, getting free ink means buying a subscription service called HP+, which extends your printer warranty by one year, gives you access to the HP Smart app, and gives you the right to brag about helping the company protect the environment by planting trees for every page. which you are printing. After the free period has expired, you can choose the appropriate payment plan that best suits your printing needs.

Image credit: Lori Hayes

In fact, after six months of free ink, you automatically get a subscription that takes you away from cheaper ink or toner and into the world of Original HP supplies. The practice went unnoticed until this week when the International Imaging Technology Council (IITC) filed complaint against the company for what it considers improper use of the EPEAT label to promote its HP+ products as environmentally friendly.

EPEAT certification requires third party cartridges and remanufactured cartridges to be used in eligible products. However, The Verge was able to confirm through ink distributors such as CompAndSave that third-party ink makers have yet to find a way to serve customers who have bought an HP+ printer.

You can technically cancel your HP+ subscription, but you’ll still be using the same firmware that blocks third-party cartridges. IITC reports that over the past two months, HP has released several firmware updates designed to strengthen DRM for ink cartridges. And the company clearly states in Instant Ink terms and Conditions that it reserves the right to remotely monitor everything you do with your printer, including the devices you use to start print jobs. It will also fix the firmware on your printer remotely without informing you in advance.

More importantly, disconnecting your HP+ printer from the internet will disable the cartridges and the only way to use your printer again is to buy “Regular HP Cartridges”. It’s similar to the online DRM that video game companies use with technologies like Denuvo, with the added inconvenience of being charged for an HP+ subscription until you decide to cancel it. And the moment you cancel HP+, the corresponding cartridges will be disabled.

When it comes to HP+ printers, HP has managed to get away with such acts by using careful language in its documentation, but the IITC is determined to force the World Electronics Council to revoke the EPEAT certification for HP+ printers and review all other HP products for potential misuse of the corresponding labels.

The IITC complaint does not have the force of a lawsuit, but it should serve as a reminder that consumers should vote with their wallets when companies like HP try to disguise holding you hostage with their products with green and consumer-friendly design. . At the time of this writing, four of ten best selling printers Amazon has HP+ printers, but you’ll probably be better off with something like $99. Brother MFC-J1010DW or $130 MFC-J1205W.


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