HP Apologises for Breaking People's Printers on Purpose

By Christina Warren on at

HP is apologising for deliberately pushing a software update to customer’s printers that would prevent them from working with non-HP ink.

Last week, news broke that HP was pulling a Keurig, after an automatic software update on certain printers would prevent them from printing with ink cartridges not made by HP. Inserting a non-HP cartridge would result in a warning message, and only using an official HP ink cartridge would get the printer working again.

We don’t have to explain why this isn’t cool. After news of borked printers hit the presses, the backlash from consumers and consumer rights groups was immediate. On Monday, the EFF issued a letter to HP ink, calling on the company to reverse its position.

The letter read:

HP customers should be able to use the ink of their choosing in their printers for the same reason that Cuisinart customers should be able to choose whose bread goes in their toasters. The practice of “tying” is rightly decried by economists and competition regulators as an invitation to monopoly pricing and reduced competition and innovation. HP customers should choose HP ink because it is the best, not because their printer won’t work with a competitor’s brand.

By Wednesday, more than 10,000 people had joined the EFF’s call to action and the HP forums were inundated with complaints from users.

HP has listened. In a blog post, HP Inc. Chief Operating Officer Jon Flaxman kind of apologizes for fucking up its users’ printers.

He writes:

As is standard in the printing business, we have a process for authenticating supplies. The most recent firmware update included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned.

We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologise. Although only a small number of customers have been affected, one customer who has a poor experience is one too many.

The apology is mealy-mouthed at best, because Flaxman and HP insist that making a functional product dysfunctional is ok.

Fortunately, HP will be offering a remedy to users who have printers affected by this nonsense.

As a remedy for the small number of affected customers, we will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here. In the meantime, customers with immediate care issues can reach us at a dedicated support centre -

So the good news is that affected users will get an update in a few weeks to disable the feature that prevents non-official cartridges from being used. The bad news is that HP seems pretty committed to DRM on its printer cartridges moving forward. [HP via The Washington Post]