Class action lawsuit accuses HP of monopolizing aftermarket ink cartridges

review: HP appears to have embraced the role of villain in the printer and ink cartridge world as the controversy surrounding the company continues. Legal disputes have arisen over its customer policies, with the latest debate centering on whether consumers knowingly agreed to buy only HP ink when buying one of the company’s printers.

Lawyers representing plaintiffs rejected one of HP’s arguments in a class-action lawsuit filed in January. HP has long been criticized by customers for repeatedly blocking alternatives to its expensive ink cartridges.

The lawsuit focuses on a firmware update that will begin rolling out in late 2022. Ink cartridges from HP and other companies are notoriously expensive, with annual costs sometimes exceeding $70. In addition, the lawsuit accuses HP of raising prices while releasing patches.

The plaintiffs argue that HP’s actions – locking in customers while raising prices – amount to a monopoly on aftermarket replacement cartridges. They are seeking compensation for unusable third-party cartridges and overcharging. However, the company argued that federal law does not allow customers to sue for overcharges. HP claims that the law clearly requires HP printers to operate only with HP ink cartridges.

In response to HP’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued that customers never agreed to exclusively purchase HP ink. The case revolves around the effectiveness of the company’s “razor and blades” strategy, which effectively locked in customers by selling relatively cheap printers and profiting from expensive replacement inks.

The company’s intention to impose its cartridges on users is obvious. Chief Financial Officer Marie Myers admitted as much in December. Discussing the lawsuit with CNBC in January, Chief Executive Enrique Lores said customers who don’t continue to use the company’s printers and ink cartridges are “bad investments.”

HP has been criticized by regulators and plaintiffs for its use of digital rights management (DRM) to block third-party and refilled ink cartridges. It had to pay compensation to customers in several countries, was criticized for allegedly disabling scan and fax functions when it was low on ink, and was accused of installing its printer application on all Windows computers without consent.

Last month, HP launched a subscription service to publicly encourage users to keep paying to use its printers. Starting at $6.99 per month, customers get a printer, 24/7 customer service, and refill shipments before the ink runs out.

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