HP faces lawsuit for allegedly cornering customers into making pricey decision

Tech company HP, which dominates the print industry, is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly quietly pushing firmware updates on its printers to block customers from printing with non-HP ink during “the same time period” its ink increased in price.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Jan. 5, alleges that HP distributed firmware updates electronically to all registered customers of its printers in 2022 and 2023.

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“Consumers do not have a choice to opt out of specific software or firmware updates,” read the lawsuit. “If a printer is connected to the internet, the update downloads automatically. Typically, consumers do not know when updates occur.”

It claims that the updates installed a feature that “disabled” printers if a customer tried to replace a cartridge in their printer with a non-HP one. If they attempted to print with a non-HP cartridge, they received an error message.

“The indicated cartridges have been blocked by the printer firmware because they contain a non-HP chip. This printer is intended to work only with new or reused cartridges that have a new or reused HP chip,” read the alleged error message which was pictured in the lawsuit.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) printer ink cartridges are displayed in a store in New York City, on Monday, August 9, 2010. 

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

The customers in the lawsuit also claim that “there was no notification of any kind” that the firmware updates would affect the printer’s functionality. They also claim that they “suffered monetary losses” from the updates because they allegedly had to pay higher prices for HP-branded ink cartridges in order to use their printers and wasted money purchasing non-HP ink before they knew that they wouldn’t be able to use it. 

“HP used the software update to create a monopoly in the aftermarket for replacement cartridges, permitting it to raise prices without fear of being undercut by competitors,” read the lawsuit.

Customers in the lawsuit are demanding a trial by jury and at least $5 million in monetary damages. They are also pushing for HP to be required to remove  the alleged feature that bans the use of non-HP ink from its firmware updates. 

It appears that HP has been quietly adjusting its prices for some of its print products over the past few years.

In December 2021, HP sent a letter to resellers announcing that starting January 2022, it would be “implementing a price adjustment across select Printing Systems Hardware and Supplies,” citing increased demand, price increases and shortages, which are challenges the company said that it expected to continue to face throughout 2022.

Using Amazon price tracker Camelcamelcamel, you can find that for multiple HP ink cartridges, it appears that prices had sharply increased in late 2022 and continued to rise in late 2023.

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