Printer ink more expensive than champagne, watchdog finds

Third-party ink could be up to 286 per cent cheaper than own-brand ink, the watchdog found

Ella Glover
Saturday 24 July 2021 18:01 BST
Some of the bigger inkjet brands block or dissuade users from trying less expensive ink, Which? said
Some of the bigger inkjet brands block or dissuade users from trying less expensive ink, Which? said (AFP/Getty)

Branded printer ink is one of the “most expensive liquids consumers can buy,” a consumer watchdog has found.

Ink bought from major inkjet printer manufacturers is more expensive than high-end champagne and luxury perfume – and could be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party ink, according to an investigation carried out by Which?

It said consumers could save a “small fortune” by opting for third-party ink.

Which? compared the prices of a number of big inkjet printer companies including Epson, Brother and Canon to their third-party counterparts.

The total cost for a refill of Epson’s own brand ink for the Epson WorkForce WF-7210DTW printer, including the required separate Epson black cartridge, would cost £107.48 per refill (more than £2,410 a litre).

However, a full refill of the highest-rated third-party supplier in the consumer champion’s survey would cost just £10.99.

It found that, over five years, the cost of Epson’s branded ink would be 877 per cent more expensive than the cheapest third-party ink.

It said a multipack of ink for the Brother MFCJ5730DW cost £98.39 compared to just £29.21 from the cheapest third-party alternative, and a full set of original-branded, high-yield cartridges for a Canon Pixma MX475 costs £80.98 compared to just £12.95 from the cheapest third-party ink supplier.

It found that using own-brand ink for the HP Officejet 6950 would leave consumers £705 out of pocket over a five-year period, assuming the full set of cartridges were replaced three times a year.

It added that 28 HP printers use a system called “dynamic security” which recognises cartridges that use non-HP chips and stops them from working. Other manufacturers use similar tactics such as promoting the use of “approved”, “original” or “guaranteed” cartridges on their websites and in instruction manuals.

Two in five (39 per cent) of those surveyed who do not use third-party cartridges said they avoided them because they thought they would not work in their printer. However, the watchdog’s consumer satisfaction survey found that no fewer than 16 third-party inks came out on top ahead of big-brand products from the likes of Brother, Canon, Epson and HP.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Printer ink shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of high-end champagne or Chanel No5. We’ve found that there are lots of third-party products that are outperforming their branded counterparts at a fraction of the cost.

“Choosing third-party ink should be a personal choice and not dictated by the make of your printer. Which? will continue to make consumers aware of the staggering cost differences between own-brand and third-party inks and give people the information they need to buy the best ink for their printer.”

A HP spokesperson said: “HP offers quality, sustainable and secure print supplies with a range of options for customers to choose from. HP offers customers the flexibility to use Original HP cartridges or third-party cartridges that retain the original HP chip or circuitry.”

Epson said: “Epson firmly believes that customers should be offered choice when buying printer ink and offers customers a wide variety of printing options to meet their printing needs; the traditional ink cartridge purchase, mentioned by Which?, is just one of these. As non-genuine inks are not designed or tested by Epson we cannot guarantee that these inks will not damage the printer.”

A Brother UK spokesperson argued that past Which? surveys said Brother inks were of a higher quality than third-party inks. It said: “We’re committed to supporting our customers with market-leading supplies that last longer, deliver consistent print yields, meet the rigorous standards for security and durability and are manufactured with minimum impact on the environment.”

A Canon spokesperson said: “Whilst third-party inks can work with Canon printers, the technology inside is designed to function correctly with our genuine inks which are formulated specifically to work with Canon technology. Customers are encouraged to use genuine inks to ensure the longevity of their printer.”

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