HP sued (once more) for blocking third-party ink from printers, accused of monopoly

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By Calvin S. Nelson

HP has used its “Dynamic Safety” firmware updates to “create a monopoly” of substitute printer ink cartridges, a lawsuit filed towards the corporate on January 5 claims. The lawsuit, which is looking for class-action certification, represents one more type of litigation towards HP for bricking printers after they attempt to use ink that does not bear an HP brand.

The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in US District Court docket within the Northern District of Illinois, names 11 plaintiffs and seeks an injunction towards HP requiring the corporate to disable its printer firmware updates from stopping the usage of non-HP branded ink. The lawsuit additionally seeks financial damages larger than $5,000,000 and a trial by jury.

The lawsuit focuses on HP printer firmware updates issued in late 2022 and early 2023 that left customers seeing this message on their printers after they tried to print with non-HP ink:

The lawsuit cites this pop-up message users saw.
Enlarge / The lawsuit cites this pop-up message customers noticed.

HP was flawed to difficulty a firmware replace affecting printer performance, and customers weren’t notified that accepting firmware updates “might injury any options of the printer,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit additionally questions HP’s follow of encouraging folks to register their printers after which quietly releasing updates that change the printers’ performance. Moreover, the lawsuit highlights the truth that the usage of non-HP ink cartridges does not break HP’s printer guarantee.

The submitting reads:

… it’s not sensible or economically rational to buy a brand new printer with a purpose to keep away from buying HP substitute ink cartridges. Due to this fact, as soon as shoppers buy their printers, the Dynamic Safety firmware updates lock them into buying HP-branded ink.

HP is pleased with its technique of locking in printer prospects. Final month, HP CFO Marie Myers praised the corporate’s motion from transactional fashions to forcing prospects into steady buys by means of choices like Prompt Ink, HP’s month-to-month ink subscription program.

“We completely see if you transfer a buyer from that pure transactional mannequin … whether or not it is [to] Prompt Ink, plus including on that paper, we kind of see a 20 p.c uplift on the worth of that buyer since you’re locking that particular person, committing to a longer-term relationship,” Myers mentioned, as quoted by The Register.

HP says Dynamic Safety is supposed to “shield the standard of our buyer expertise, keep the integrity of our printing programs, and shield our mental property.” HP’s Dynamic Safety web page says that HP printers with the function “are meant to work solely with cartridges which have new or reused HP chips or digital circuitry. The printers use the Dynamic Safety measures to dam cartridges utilizing non-HP chips or modified or non-HP digital circuitry.”

Conveniently timed priced hikes?

The brand new lawsuit claims that HP’s firmware updates pressured prospects to purchase HP-brand ink that prices greater than opponents.

When reached for remark, Peggy Wedgworth, a senior associate on the Milberg regulation agency and one of many legal professionals representing the plaintiffs on this case, instructed Ars Technica:

HP successfully monopolized the aftermarket for substitute ink cartridges in violation of federal and state antitrust legal guidelines, which pressured HP printer house owners to buy solely HP-branded ink at excessive costs and lose the worth of any non-HP branded substitute ink cartridges.

The lawsuit accuses HP of elevating costs on its ink “in the identical time interval” that it issued its late 2022 and early 2023 firmware updates, which “create[d] a monopoly within the aftermarket for substitute cartridges, allowing [HP] to boost costs with out worry of being undercut by opponents.

The lawsuit does not cite a supply to again up its price-hike claims. However Ars Technica had a fast take a look at Amazon pricing, through Camelcamelcamel, for a few of HP’s ink choices that, as of this writing, intently match (inside cents) the pricing on HP’s web site. We discovered that ink costs for some—however not all— of HP’s ink cartridges did, in truth, improve in late 2022 and early 2023. There are numerous components that would contribute to a product’s value growing, although.

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