HP sued (again) for blocking third-party ink from printers via security updates

HP has used its “Dynamic Security” firmware updates to “create a monopoly” of replacement printer ink cartridges, a lawsuit filed against the company on January 5 claims. The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action certification, represents yet another form of litigation against HP for bricking printers when they try to use ink that doesn’t bear an HP logo.

The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in US District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, names 11 plaintiffs and seeks an injunction against HP requiring the company to disable its printer firmware updates from preventing the use of non-HP branded ink. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages greater 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 users seeing this message on their printers when 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 users saw.

HP was wrong to issue a firmware update affecting printer functionality, and users were not notified that accepting firmware updates “could damage any features of the printer,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also questions HP’s practice of encouraging people to register their printers and then quietly releasing updates that change the printers’ functionality. Additionally, the lawsuit highlights the fact that the use of non-HP ink cartridges doesn’t break HP’s printer warranty.

The filing reads:

… it is not practical or economically rational to purchase a new printer in order to avoid purchasing HP replacement ink cartridges. Therefore, once consumers purchase their printers, the Dynamic Security firmware updates lock them into purchasing HP-branded ink.

HP is proud of its strategy of locking in printer customers. Last month, HP CFO Marie Myers praised the company’s movement from transactional models to forcing customers into continuous buys through offerings like Instant Ink, HP’s monthly ink subscription program.

“We absolutely see when you move a customer from that pure transactional model … whether it’s [to] Instant Ink, plus adding on that paper, we sort of see a 20 percent uplift on the value of that customer because you’re locking that person, committing to a longer-term relationship,” Myers said, as quoted by The Register.


The lawsuit accuses HP of raising prices on its ink “in the same time period” that it issued its late 2022 and early 2023 firmware updates, which “create[d] a monopoly in the aftermarket for replacement cartridges, permitting [HP] to raise prices without fear of being undercut by competitors.


HP’s decision to use firmware updates to brick printers using non-HP ink has landed it in litigation numerous times since Dynamic Security debuted in 2016. While the recently filed case is still in its early stages, it’s another example of how disgruntled users have become with HP seizing control over the type of ink that customers insert into hardware they own.

For example, HP agreed to pay $1.5 million in 2019 to settle a class-action case in California about Dynamic Security.

Overseas, HP paid European customers $1.35 million for Dynamic Security. It also paid a 10,000,000-euro fine to the Italian Antitrust Authority in 2020 over the practice and agreed to pay approximately AUD$50 each to Australian customers in 2018.

In addition to the lawsuit filed earlier this month, HP is facing a lawsuit filed in California in 2020 over an alleged failure to disclose information about Dynamic Security. As noted by Reuters, in December, a Northern District of California judge ruled (PDF) that the lawsuit may not result in monetary rewards, but plaintiffs may seek an injunction against the practice.

HP has also been fighting a lawsuit complaining about some of its printers refusing to scan and/or fax without HP ink loaded into the device, even though ink isn’t required to scan or fax a document. (This is something other printer companies are guilty of, too).

Despite already enduring payouts regarding Dynamic Security and calls for HP printers to be ousted from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) registry, HP seems committed to using firmware updates to try to control how people use their own printers.


Source: HP sued (again) for blocking third-party ink from printers, accused of monopoly | Ars Technica

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