HP programmed its cartridges to fail

myce-hp-error-message-670x447The maker of expensive printer ink, HP, appears to have programmed all its printers to reject other people’s electronic cartridges  on 13 September.

Thousands of HP printers around the world started to show error messages on the same day, saying that non-HP cartridges were damaged. It called on customers to Remove them and replace them with new cartridges.

On HP’s support forums numerous complaints were posted and Dutch online retailer 123inkt also received a large amount of complaints on that day and decided to investigate the matter.

Looking under the bonnet of their test printers they found a large scale problem with their private label brand cartridges with several HP printers. When they emailed their customers asking them if they wanted to check if their printer also had problems, they received replies from more than 1,000 customers confirming it.

The problem existed in the printer’s firmware although HP claimed it was unaware of the fact. People who complained to HP were told the error was caused by using non-HP cartridges. A day later HP withdrew that statement and explained the problems were a side effect of an firmware update.

But HP didn’t release a firmware update at any date near the 13 September – in fact the last time the printers with problems received a firmware update was March. The firmware has been hanging around since 2015. Also printers with firmware released before March 2016 suffered from the problem and printers without any internet access started to reject non-HP cartridges.

In other words, the problem was not caused by a firmware update and HP programmed a date in its firmware on which non-HP cartridges would no longer be accepted.

On its website 123inkt said: “This problem is not unique. Printer manufacturers regularly release firmware updates which are said to enhance the printer’s performance or address security issues. The (un) intended result, however, is that the use of cheaper private label cartridges is made difficult and / or that error messages are caused. This time the problem was not the result of an update to improve the operation of the printer, but HP apparently programmed a date in its firmware on which the issues should start, the 13 September, 2016.”