Security Updates Are Even Breaking Your Printer (On Purpose)

Printer manufacturers hate third-party ink cartridges. They want you buying the expensive, official ones. Epson and HP have issued sneaky “updates” that break these cheaper cartridges, forcing you to buy the expensive ones.

HP pioneered this technique back in 2016, rolling out a “security update” to its OfficeJet and OfficeJet Pro printers that activated a helpful new feature—helpful for HP’s bottom line, at least. Now, before printing, the printer would verify you’re using new HP ink cartridges. If you’re using a competitor’s ink cartridge or a refilled HP ink cartridge, printing would stop. After some flaming in the press, HP sort-of apologized, but not really.

Epson is the latest company doing something bad, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As the EFF puts it:

Now, Epson has followed suit: in late 2016 or early 2017, Epson started sending deceptive updates to many of its printers. Just like HP, Epson disguised these updates as routine software improvements, when really they were poison pills, designed to downgrade printers so they could only work with Epson’s expensive ink systems.

The EFF learned of this via a reader in Texas, and has reported this behavior to the Texas Attorney General. If you live in another state and you had a similar problem with your Epson printer, the EFF urges you to write in so your complaint can be forwarded to your state’s Attorney General.

We recommend against buying inkjet printers, which are generally a huge pain. If you need to print documents, get a laser printer like the Brother HL-L2350DW, which can handle black-and-white documents with ease—and with more economical toner instead of ink cartridges.

If you want to print photos, consider using a photo-printing service rather than buying an expensive photo printer, pricey photo paper, and endless overpriced ink cartridges.

Thanks to Motherboard for calling attention to this news.