back to article Brits blow millions on over-priced ink

British consumers are wasting £440m a year on branded printer cartridges rather than cheaper white label replacements. dom perignon How to avoid that freshly ripped-off feeling... A survey from YouGov found half of all households always buy brand name cartridges, which are typically a third more expensive than equivalents …


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  1. Captain Underpants

    So who's surprised?

    As per title, who's surprised here? Because I'm bloody not.

    There's a reason I grudgingly put up with getting fleeced by HP for genuine cartridges for my small laserjet printer at home, and it's the desire to have a valid warranty. It's the same at work - what's the point in buying an extended warranty on a large printer/MFD if you then use non-branded cartridges that invalidate the warranty? (Yes, I know, you could use unbranded carts and disable cartridge checking - it's still the sort of thing that a service engineer will hide behind as a reason not to fix your hardware).

    If government wants to do something about this, they should start by kicking HP et al in the pants over how they tie their hardware warranties to the usage of consumables. Of course, that would force companies selling printers to admit that actually they're in the printer ink/toner market rather than the printer market...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "what's the point in buying an extended warranty"

      There isn't one. Every time someone offers you an extended warranty put the money in a savings account instead. Then sit back and marvel at how quickly it grows.

      1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Warranties

        Not with today's interest rates, it won't...

      2. Captain Underpants

        Oh, wow, some sort of medal's in order for you, mate....

        Right. So you're telling me that at enterprise level, you spend a four-figure sum on a high-volume printer/MFD and then *don't* spend the extra cash (normally significantly less than the cost of the printer/MFD, natch) to make sure that if it breaks in 18 months time you're covered?

        Yeah, I can see how sales people would *love* you...

    2. Puck


      I'm sorry, but your conception of consumer law is about 200 years out of date.

      In a nutshell:

      1) Certainly if you are a home user,forget about your warranty. Your printer must last as long as a "reasonable person" would reasonably think it should, considering all factors including the price. This is the main, the most important part of your contract, and overrides the warranty and any unfair exclusion clauses it contains.

      2) therefore, nobody can tell you not to use third-party ink. That counts as an unfair exclusion clause because it excludes those reasonable obligations to you implied by the sale of goods act and protected by the unfair terms in consumer contracts regulations.

      3) I HAVE HEARDa business can be a consumer, and enjoy similar protections, both under the aboveconsumer law and the unfair contract terms act, which I gather basically says the same thing as the former.

      I'm pretty sure this exact case relating to the ink has been written up in case law! Please a lawyer confirm this for me.

      The warranty, such as is offered, is a "gratuitous promise" on the part of the retailer (because it's them with whom you have a contract, not the manufacturer) over and above their frankly quite enormous obligations to you under the sale of goods act. The sale of goods act 1893. Yes, that's when it was first written.

      The unfair terms in consumer contracts regulations (1985?) essentially states that clauses in form contracts which unfairly deprive the purchaser of utility paid for, can be struck out.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      I hate to be really RUDE but "Helloooo Stupid"

      I have been refilling my own cartridges for YEARS.

      A new printer - the ones I use with a 21 pages per minute speed, costs say $200Au. With the average getting ripped off per cartridge being somewhere about $40 - $50, for me to go through about 2 or 3 refills a month - just on the black alone, I recoup the cost of the cost of the refills by buying my INK at the price of about $60 a liter, and the after market printer cartridges - which are good for about 6 or 7 refills each - costing about $5 each... and each refill costing about $2 or $3 each....

      They can stick their warranty and their printer up their arses.

      I did this calculation years ago - for another printer, that by doing my own refilling - the printer then cost $450 new.... and they go oh no - you will void your warranty and you will even die.. if you touch the ink.... Ohhhhhhh

      Yeah I was able to refill the OEM cartridges about 7 - 11 times each, and after refilling each cartridge - I think if I had of been buying the NEW OEM cartridges each time, I would have been up for about $4500 per anum - and by refilling it cost me about $320 - complete with about 3 or 4 cartridges (long time ago - but you get the picture)

      Get off your arse, do your sums and start to think for yourself instead of being fed bullshit and CHOOSING to get ripped off in the process.

      1. Captain Underpants

        Tool of lucifer? Well, I can see the name's half right, at least...

        Yes yes, well done, I'm an idiot for wanting my printer's warranty to be easily enforceable and not involve arguments over breach of warranty through using crap consumables. Not only that, I'm also an idiot for not wanting to manually refill toner cartridges for a laserjet printer. Oh, and I extrapolate this perspective to the large laserjet printers whose maintenance and upkeep falls to me at work as well? By god, I must be some sort of living embodiment of idiocy or some such.

        Next time try not being a condescending prick and reading the whole post first. Unless you're going to claim I'm still an idiot for not wanting to fuck around refilling toner which case, well, there's not much point continuing the conversation, is there?

  2. RobE
    Paris Hilton

    Probably because...

    ... the printer manufacturers instructions boldly state "if you don't use our branded ink, the warranty on this printer is VOID."

    Given the cost of a printer can now be as much as the ink cartridges now - or even less - it does not make sense to keep buying ink cartridges that are branded.

    1. Tigra 07

      RE: RobE

      Our printer cost £15 from ASDA so i wouldn't bet on that.

      It's still going strong after 2 years!

      1. Mark Aggleton


        And you're Enterprise? As it happens the company I work for is and we don't extend warranties at all.

    2. Ralph Beales

      And who cares about warranties?

      The Sale Of Goods Act is what you would use to sue a company who supplied faulty equipmernt. It's good for 6 years after purchase; forget the waranty, SoGA every time.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cheaper ink

    I've used cheaper non-branded ink in the past in my Canon printer ... however both times I tried I ended up with a clogged prnt head and on the 2nd time had to spend £40 to replace it which rather nullified the savings on the ink!

    1. Vic

      Cheap cartridges

      > I've used cheaper non-branded ink in the past in my Canon printer

      I always use el-cheapo ink on my Epson printers (I paid £10 for 12 cartridges last time I bought some). As long as you understand that some cheap cartridges just aren't worth having, it all seems fine so far...

      >... however both times I tried I ended up with a clogged prnt head

      The only time I've ever clogged a print head was when I didn't use the printer for an extended period of time - and it had genuine Epson cartridges in at the time.


      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Same here on Epson

        Same here; tried an own label instead of Epson ink cartridge, and the printer had to go in the bin. Even after 100s of cleaning cycles, replacing all the carts with cleaning fluid carts, trying cleaning the head directly (using everything available in the cleanroom at work), etc.

        At that point I decided that I didn't want photo quality printing at home, and bought a color laser. It just works (tm), the only maintenance is to load the paper tray every so often.

        Thing is using Epson carts in an Epson printer, if it goes wrong I talk to Epson. If I use Tesco carts and it goes wrong, who can I talk to?

        1. Alan Firminger

          What I want is a general solution

          I hate the rip off in the present set up.

          Over twenty years I have lost count of my ink jets. I have experimented with home filling and alternative cartridges. Always the original works best, giving solid deposit and maximum life without trouble.

          Throughout this time I have been conscious that there is no user oriented website for printer owners. It would provide reviews, advice and a forum.

        2. Simon Westerby 1

          Non Branded for me...

          I've always used Non-Branded in my Epson R200, which is now over 6 years old and still running strong - with no issues...

          No clogged heads..

          Same with my Girlfriends R200... (same age)

          Used to print documents, cd covers and photos..

          I refuse to be fleased by the manufacturers..

          We are looking to upgrade to a multi functional printer/scanner/coppier atm and I will be looking at the cost of non-branded replacement ink when we decide what to buy

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cheaper ink

      Same for Epson, Twice, when printers had reached the end of their life I thought once the ink runs out I'll get a new one, I tried replacement cartridges and both times they clogged. Hardly a large enough sample but enough for me not to trust cheaper alternatives when it matters.

    3. Mark 65

      Re:Cheaper ink

      The other issue you get with cheaper ink is that when you don't use the manufacturer branded paper (kodak is a good alternative as they tell you how to adjust the print settings) and ink and you print out photos you'll find it pretty hard to get a good colour match without calibrating the device which is beyond the capability of a lot of users. Random chance may get you there but likely the prints will look a touch shitty - I speak from personal experience. So whilst they are robbing you they are also guaranteeing you some kind of output quality.

  4. Was Steve

    Sometimes there is a reason...

    If you're printing photos on your photo printer then OEM cartiridges and paper is the best way to go, the colours output will be more correct, and will last longer, as the manufacturers will (should) have gone to all the trouble of matching the drivers, ink and paper.

    Of course if you're just printing black and white docs then there's no reason to use the OEM stuff...

  5. Sampler

    Better for the environment my arse!

    Every single time I've tried cheaper compatibles they've leaked all over my printer - on one occasion it meant getting a new printer for my father it'd managed to gunk it up that much.

    Not only for inks but for toners too - part of an IT Service job I had a five year ago was printer support (fully accredited to service HP Laserjets) and the amount of toner compatibles dumped thus ruining image belts and fuser units was ridiculous - when the large financial institution rolled out they were saving over a million pounds switching the company from HP official toners to refills I bet they never included the increased service and parts cost in that equation as it would easily be the other way round! (the real reasoning they switched might have had something to do with the head in charge of the deal been given a free tour of their Africa?)

    Now both me and me Dad use Kodaks which have nice cheap inks - yes they don't last /as/ long as my old Canons but at under half the price for a third less I can live with and the lower outlay every time I need a new set doesn't make me balk, plus for the price of three refills I got a shiny new scanner/printer with wifi into the bargain, a big step up on the old unit.

  6. Andy Senyszyn
    Paris Hilton

    And all inks are not made equal...

    ...I spent years 'on the front lines', dealing with Joe and Josephine Public and their PC nightmares - the amount of people who wrecked (at the time) pricey printers by bunging in cheap refills was immense! People would bring in printers in bin liners, dripping with multicoloured ooze - one guy ended up redecorating his kitchen as some DIY refill kit exploded all over his wife's wallpaper!

    I don't know if it's still quite as bad, but I do know that the refilled toner cartridges some of our little laserjets have had ended up with toner powder all over the innards of a couple of our HPs, so they're on my banned list.

    But they're overpriced, so we barely print anything these days anyway and the online photo boys have got their act together lately too, so why bother with anything other than a cheapy little Canon MFD that you can refill once a year with branded inks for about £25?

    Paris, cos I bet she knows a thing or two about producing your own prints at home...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quality of inks

    Aftermarket inks are hugely variable in quality and many people, quite rightly, don't want to take the risk. I have 10 year old photos printed with Epson inks that still look great. Cheaper inks have a tendancy to fade or change colour, even over very short periods of time. I've tried a huge number of replacement brands and have never found anything as good as OEM. Many of the el cheapo brands will block up the print heads too, which in turn wastes more ink on cleaning cycles.

  8. Barry Tabrah

    Buyer beware

    Sure you can buy cheaper ink. But be ready to buy a new printer. We've had more printers ruined with cheap ink than have failed mechanically. Print heads have been clogged and ink has leaked all over the inside of the printer. Print quality has also suffered in some cases. And inkjets aren't the only culprit. Cheap laser printer toners have caused laser printers to fail, leaked toner into the printer, and left dark marks all over print jobs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Well if printer companies did not design their printers to only take branded cartridges I am sure more people would use refils/cheaper variants.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be perfectly frank

    I bought a non-brand replacement for my inkjet when the black ran out and the print quality from it was atrocious. Next time I shopped around on-line but made sure I got the real ones. Having said that, the printer came from one of those ex-Argos-lines discount warehouses and was actually cheaper than replacing both cartridges.

    I suspect a lot of people could save a lot more money though just by taking a disk down to the nearest big supermarket and having them print their photos at far better quality and a fraction of the price than any of these easy-share camera-docking photo-printers that the manufacturers are trying to tell you are the next big middle-class necessity after breadmakers.

    1. Just Thinking

      What's wrong with bread makers?

      Two minutes tipping the ingredients in, switch it on and the next morning you have a fresh loaf. We've had one for years and use it every day. Better than the over priced stale crap in the supermarket, especially the rustic stuff which has been kicking around unwrapped on the shelf all day being prodded and squeezed by people who can't afford it any more than they can afford soap.

      Now if that Jimmy's Food Factory guy could stop messing around with chewing gum and show us how to make our own printer inks using special ingredients and machinery none of us have the remotest chance of getting our hands on, that would be useful.

  11. Subban

    Manufacturers go to great lengths..

    To tell customers how the sky will fall down if they use 3rd party inks, well at the very least the state very clearly in most cases that their warranty will be invalidated.

    To be honest, I suggest folks get a cheap home black and white laser printer because thats all 80% need. For the other 15% I also point them to an online photo printer and indicate the continued savings. The for the remaining 5% I would suggest a dedicated 6x4 / 7x5 photo printer for those times where they don't want to wait the 24-48hrs for photobox to deliver, or where they just want a couple printed.

    Seems to give the best of all worlds then.

  12. JonHendry


    Seriously? 4.85 a year on average? That seems high. Unless that's counting C, Y, M, and K cartridges separately.

    I bought a new HP OfficeJet last XMas, and only got to the end of the bundled cartridges in the last month or so.

  13. Chris Janman

    Define "cheaper"

    How "cheaper"? I've always used branded HP cartridges (ink & toner) & thought I'd try white label. The first toner cartridge I chucked out (it couldn't be recycled, unlike the HP branded) after a couple of days because that quality was unusable - even for draft work. The first ink cartridges smeared ink over everything - printouts, the inside of the printer, etc.. I've now gone back to HP branded - the price may be much higher, but at least they do the job.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the point of the OFT?

    The article mentioning champagne linked to in this article is over 7 years old.

    Since then, and the OFT's fluff, the situation has got a lot worse. Not only is the cost of ink higher than ever before, but with each new model, makers like Canon and Epson develop new ways to waste ink or introduce new ways of forcing you to spend a fortune on servicing.

    Epson photo printers piss out as much ink as they can every time you switch them on at the mains (how many households switch their printers off at the mains because they're only used every few days or weeks?), and still waste a lot every now and then if you just leave them in standby. And when your printer decides its pads have soaked up enough ink from borderless printing, the whole thing just shuts down until you take it in for servicing. And of course, the cost of that deliberately points you toward buying a new printer. A lot more than hacking it and replacing the official pads with a 4p bog roll.

    Remember when car manufacturers used to charge way over the odds in the UK, even compared to the rest of the EU? They eventually did something about that, so why not printer ink? If something does get done, you can be sure it'll be entirely down to the EU and not the OFT or any UK authority.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I sell non-originals!

    It's interesting to see that , as I write this, so far virtually every post is anti non-original toners/inks.

    I sell them and have regular commercial customers who buy from me month-in month-out. One customer is a printer company (as in they print stuff for their customers). They have a very high daily throughput as they use HP LaserJets for much of their work. They do have a failure rate which they say is EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY above that they used to get with HP originals, but as they're paying less than half of the price for the compatibles they are more than happy - which is why each month they send me a nice fat order.

    I do not hear from the vast vast majority of my customers between their repeat orders - I have to take that as a sign that they are encountering no problems.

    Perhaps we get no problems because we avoid the cheap and nasty Chinese suppliers and go for large specialist manufacturers.

  16. Tom 7

    I've got a computer screen

    so I only need a printer for very very rare occasions.

    I'm currently having to send a signed document via electronic facsimile. The document was sent in PDF, it has been modified (they WONT even check), and printed and will be signed and taken to a museum to fax as I no longer have the technology. - the printer is for the kids whose school is still in the dark ages.

    Paper - isn't worth the rubbish written on it.

    if someone invented the combustion engine these days do you think they'd drive their Ferraris to the stable to take a horse into town?

  17. AndrueC Silver badge

    I save even more almost never printing anything :)

    1. David_H

      Kids - Schools

      You obviously don't have children at upper/senior school!

      Homework has to be downloaded from the schools server at home and printed out, before filling in the paper copy by hand and returning by hand the next day for credits!

      That's where all my ink goes. And currently they enforce the rule that if the document has coloured elements, then it has to be printed out in colour! I'm seeing the head about that next week!

      I historically always insisted on using manufacturers inks (and paper when printing photographs) as I used to be a qualified Epson printer engineer, but since the homework issue started then I use a reputable brand of 3rd party ink. The quality on normal text is approximately 10% worse, but on photographs more than 50% worse. I've also noted a huge variety of quality by changing paper supplier. Epson ink on Epson glossy photo paper is awsome!

      Photograph printing is much cheaper online than doing it yourself though, so I'm taking the hit on quality at home - at least until I use the 2+ years of cheaper cartridge stock!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I use them and they're fine

    I've tried a few different non-OEM brands, and some are definitely no good at all. A stall on my local market sells Inkrite (I think - they're in orange boxes with orange clips on) and I've found them to be reliable and very close in colour to the original canon ones. They're significantly cheaper but not the cheapest around. They're even acceptable for occasional photo use, but I wouldn't trust them for long image retention.

    Most of the others I've tried have produced odd colouring or spotty output. I think Canon printers are a little more forgiving of off-brand ink than Epson were (my previous brand), I've certainly had less problems anyway.

    Frankly, I wish the printer manufacturers would just offer a realistically priced printer with cheap consumables. They won't do that while the market prefers to buy throwaway printers because it's cheaper than buying ink. Perhaps cheap printers should be subject to some kind of recycling levy?

  19. billyad2000
    Thumb Down

    This is a poor article.

    A little like comparing an ePad with a iPad.

    Just because something is cheaper does not meant it is better. Buying cheap cartridges in my experience is false economy.

    I used to buy 3rd party epson inks, and while there was a significant saving of something like 60% over epson branded cartridges. I used them for a little while, until I realised that I was wasting most of my saving emptying the carts by needing to clean the nozels. I remember in one instance replacing a black and by the time I had cleared the nozels enough for a decent print it was half empty, as where the rest of the cartridges.

    There is also the matter of colour quality in photos and longevity.

    3rd party were definately not worth the trouble.

    I now have an HP C8180 and buy a full set of inks for about £30, the pack also includes 150 sheets of photo paper. This works out at about 5p per photo, not an excessive price really.

  20. Havin_it


    There can't be many better examples of the comments adding perspective to the thrust of the article.

    I heard all the scare-stories like this back when refill carts were a relatively new thing, but had heard that they were better nowadays. Then again, those posting above could be forgiven for not having a second go. Does anyone have long-running experience enough to spot a trend?

    On the face of it the warranty-hostage situation seems a bit iniquitous, but then in light of the above horror stories I guess you can see their point. Hardly fair for them to pay for damage caused by someone else's shoddy product...

    What would be good to see would be the manufacturers offering a proper, certified refilling franchise to high-street resellers so punters could still be green by recycling their empty carts locally (and save a couple of quid in the process). But that's unlikely, far too sensible.

  21. Joe Harrison

    Drives me absolutely round the twist

    I have an 18-month old colour laser at home which is now starting to run out of toner. I hate the giant bulky thing but the family insist they "need" it. Would cost 130 quid to buy a set of cartridges but only 115 to buy a complete brand new equivalent printer with (specifically stated) full toner. So a perfectly working networked colour laser printer will be going to the dump. This just can't be right.

  22. loopy lou

    DIY refils

    I bought a pack of 1 liter bottles of ink and syringes a couple of years ago (for about 40 quid if I remember) and have refilled two cannon printers from them ever since. The black is almost out now, so that's the equivalent of about 30 standard cartridges.

    Its a bit fiddly sometimes, but nothing too awkward, and frankly I quite enjoy a few minutes poking around in the printer. Its much better than the hassle of going to the shops or ordering on-line and having to be in to receive the stuff. One less thing to think about...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only trouble I've had...

    has been the type that Epson have intentionally caused me.

    I've been using 'alternative' cartridges for my Epson inkjet for a couple of years and I really haven't had any issues with the print quality. The savings have more than paid for the cost of the printer so even if it does reduce the working life somehow I really don't mind.

    What I do have a problem with is since I upgraded the machine I used as a print server to Win7, and with it the new Epson drivers, my printer keeps telling me that it doesn't have any ink and refuses to print. Maybe Epson were right all along and this is what I get for not wisely spending my money on a quality ink cartridge.

    Although the printer doesn't seem to have any hangups about lack of ink now that I'm printing from Linux using open source printer drivers that Epson have no control over. Strange that.

  24. Matt_payne666

    non-original cartridges...

    I support a number of schools and most of them use compatibles... in general, they are ok for day to day disposable prints.

    The faiure rates tend to be quite high - one laser went through 4 compatible toners, all of them creating dreadful output, switching to a brand new original, suddenly all ws better...

    most of the sites that use the refills have a box for duff cartridges that need to be replaced... Ive yet to have one original fail on me - plus originals stand a much less chance of getting my fingers dirty...

  25. eJ2095


    Have used a continuous ink system for 2 years now no problems what so ever.

    But due to my i can't be arsed to print photos i end to stick em on mem stick and off to boots lol..

    1. Trevor Marron

      Me too, well sort of.....

      When I bought my current Epson I did not even bother installing the cartridges that came with it, I sold them on eBay for £25 which I then used to buy a set of refillable cartridges (basically a tank with a chip on) which I have been using for three years now.

      I only use decent quality inks, but can afford to because I am not shelling out over £40 for cartridges every month. Yes every month. And all that non-OEM ink has not damaged my printer although generally it is almost worn out now with all the printing.

      No full CIS here though as the kids would get the ink everywhere!

  26. Da Weezil

    non OEM here

    Never used OEM Carts since my old Olivetti back in '96. For many years I filled my own for my BJC80 a lovely little printer that I only stopped using a couple of years ago due to a memory fault developing. It had one print head in all the time I had it and it worked hard for its living!

    The Pixma that replaced and became a network unit gets generic carts, and works fine for our needs.. and is doing even more work that the old BJC did. All I do is periodic cleaning..... but then thats part of ownership.... isnt it?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Cost of Ink

    A full set of 6 Epson inks for my printer is about £60 from PC World, th eprinter costs just less than this. It is blatant profiteering, especially as a friend of mine works for a company which makes amongst other things inkjet ink, it cost about £1 per litre.

    1. Bod

      Cost of printer

      Your printer doesn't really cost less than £60. It's far more than that, it's just it's subsidised and you pay for it through cartridges.

  28. Lottie


    I've got a Lexmark and it would be cheaper to buy a new printer than change the cartridge. However, it's even cheaper to just buy a refil kit. I've done colour and black ink and it's fine for most applications.

    The best deal I ever got was the 3 bottles of black from Tesco. It cost about £5 and lasted over a year. If you use original cartridges (I know some don't work this way due to their chips) and replace them, you don't get the gumming or whatnot.

    Amazingly though, I print a lot of black and white stuff, yet I've not been asked to replace the white ink yet....

    (I'll get me coat)

  29. Bod

    Cheap cr@p

    I've dabbled in cheap cartridges before, but stick to originals now. If you just print black text and don't mind smudgy prints or print pictures and photos just for family fun and don't care about the quality, and don't mind your heads getting clogged up, then they're fine.

    If you want quality prints and/or photos, cheap isn't always better. That's not to say the originals are necessarily the best, but generally they are more reliable and better quality. If you do serious photo printing, especially with the 6 ink photo printers, you need inks that colour match properly also.

    Environmentally friendly? Depends, where do the cheap inks come from? What do they contain? How much fuel has been used to ship them from the sweat shop in China?

    Oh, and there's a reason why originals are expensive. You are getting a printer at a massively subsidised price, and the inks essentially pay for the printer.

    P.S. Shop around - you can get originals pretty cheap if you buy from the right places.

  30. Gene Cash Silver badge

    No ink for me!

    I got tired of my printer being clogged every time I went to use it, no matter what cartridges I bought, so I switched to a mono laser from Brother. It's PS too, which means I was also able to ditch that CUPS shit.

  31. The BigYin

    After my warranty ran out...

    ...I bought some "pattern part" ink. It works OK and I can't tell the difference, but the printer can't tell if the ink is full or empty as the chips could not be reset due to a patent. WTF?

    A patent on telling how full a bucket is? Jesus.

    It's a Dell printer (rebranded-Lexmark) and needs to go when I switch over to Linux as it's not supported, so I'll be looking for a printer where I can use "pattern part" ink. if I was doing high-end stuff...maybe I'd worry. But I'm not.

  32. andy gibson

    @Subban - B&W laser printer

    Go one further a get a second hand laser. Buying a new one means there is less likely to be compatible toner carts available. The entry level HP laserjet doesn't for example or didn't last month when I needed a toner.

    But as with inks, there are good and bad suppliers of compatible toners. One company, who I won't name, sold me toners which leaked all over the printer. Another's quality is excellent and not a speck has been leaked.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Vintage lasers

      My HP 4MPlus is still chugging along perfectly. About £30 to refill a couple of years ago and still plenty of ink in the toner cartridge. HP must be kicking themselves for making something quite so indestructible.

  33. Websnail

    If it's not OEM it's ALL bad?

    Never fails to amaze me that the old "Oooh don't go near the compatible" argument gets trotted out every time something like this gets published.

    The fatal mistake virtually everyone makes (and HP, Canon, Epson, etc... are all quite happy to focus their marketing efforts on it too btw) is that most people looking at compatibles go for the cheapest, tackiest option possible and then wonder why they end up with burnt fingers (or is that ink stained?).

    Saying all compatible inks are cr*p is like someone saying that alcohol is a wonderful way of spending a night and wondering why they end up at the gates chatting with St Peter because they drank a bottle of Isopropyl. There are a vast array of ink manufacturers with an even wider spectrum of quality, light-fastness and just general suitability for the task.

    Compatible cartridges are very difficult to nail down because very few (if any) 3rd party manufacturers will tell you where they get the ink from, and even then there is a tendancy to change supplier from time to time. So what about the other options?

    There's Continuous Ink Systems, refillable cartridges or, if you're using Canon inkjets how about refilling OEM cartridges using the Durchstich or "German" method... All of these work great if you do your homework and get a decent quality ink in bulk and invest a little time in learning how to refill.

    Bottom line, it's all well and good trotting out the "I spent 5 minutes looking for the cheapest brand and it bit me" excuses but if you don't bother doing your research and find a decent ink, supplier or kit, you really have nobody else to blame but yourselves.

    Oh and while we're on the subject, how about looking at the good old "Service Required" issue... Epson printers hit this infamous "error" in record time nowadays adding perfectly useable printers to the landfill when the provision of a reset utility (available to North American customers - we're too thick in Europe apparently!) will reset the counter and allow you to fit an external tank or deal with the waste pads yourself.

    Why nobody has written a story about that shocking waste of resources yet, is a complete mystery...

  34. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    I started using compatibles...

    ... because of my Epson printer's habit of, even when I select "black only", still using the colour inks (which I rarely use) and I was finding that I was having to replace an entire set of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow cartridges without *ever* printing anything in colour!

    I also use a chip resetter because I can get an extra 20-30 pages of printing from a cartridge that the printer says is "empty".

    I've very rarely had any problems with the compatibles, if I do, a quick swap to the cleaning cartridge sorts it out and I count the savings...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP Laserjet

    We used to use HP ink in a colour LaserJet printer until the bosses decided to buy compatible ink. One quarter of the left hand side of the page is now constantly faded and the colours are washed out looking. I can see toner dust all over the inside of the printer. I'm not sure it was worth the 'savings'.

    1. Stuart Halliday


      Well if you will insist on putting ink into a Laser printer, you should expect a mess! :-)

    2. Trevor Marron

      Sounds more like a fuser issue....

      It sounds to me like the fuser has come away from the chassis at one side and is not melting the toner onto the paper properly, which is NOTHING to do with the TONER cartridges.

  36. simon 43

    Brother MFD

    This story gets bubbled up to the surface every few Years doesn't it... My current family workhorse is a Brother MFC-620N, few Years old now, and other than one set of original replacement inks (from Argos in a special offer) I have used Tesco replacement cartridges (no problems), and both Tesco and ASDA ink refills (a little fiddly and needs care to avoid spillages but certainly work OK). In terms of quality, the originals are *very* slightly better than compatible/refilling - but not enough to warrant the increased cost.

    I have needed to replace the waste sponges from a donor 420N but it's still going strong and used on a daily basis for colour and B/W.

    I have a Canon 4600 which I use exclusively to print photoraphs and DVD labels, and so far have only needed to buy one set of inks - they *were* original because the unit was only 6 Months old at the time - and a recent check of prices in the high street shows little saving over compatibles... presumably this model isn't popular enough for the really cheapies!

    High volume printing is done on a Panasonic B&W laser which I have managed to buy a small stock of original toner cartridges on Ebay a Year or two ago!

    The only clogged print head I have had was with a Canon ip500 which had been standing unused for many Months - yes it had compatible cartidges in it, but it was the non-use that killed it.

    In general, I would imagine the majoriy of problems people have is from using the cheapest compatibles they can find, which oddly enough are probably not remanufactured all that well!

  37. Stuart Halliday

    Clogged printer?

    Get yourself the Mr. Muscle Kitchen Cleaner bottle (the clear liquid not the yellow one) and squirt it onto the resting place/sponge and leave for 12 hours.

    Then do a few test prints and repeat if necessary. Works.

    It's just distilled water and 5% alcohol so you could even make it up yourself?

    Maplin sells pure alcohol and most shops sell car battery top-up water (de-ionised or distilled) for pennies.

    You can also use it as a screen cleaner too but test the plastic first OK?

  38. banjomike

    Yay, Continuous Ink System

    The CIS I bought with a new Epson Stylus Photo printer over 2 years ago cost less than a new set of six Epson cartridges, came with 600ml of ink. It has paid for itself AND PAID FOR THE PRINTER several times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Cheap CIS from China for my Epson R200 was fiddly to install and looks messy but has saved 100s pounds in ink costs. Buy in bottles from Ebay.

      Ideal if you print kids homeworks and stuff. Photos not so good though, but then I don't print many.

  39. The New Turtle

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    We've had various makes of printers over the years, but some seem to cope better with cheap refills/liquid ink better than others. In the case of our 2 YO HP 3920 buying a 'budget' cartridge for a tenner from a local cartridge shop was a bad idea, with grey text (even in presentation mode) and the cartridge quickly drying and blocking after not being used for 48 hours. Shopping around a little provided genuine full-sized cartridges at about 20quid each, and represent much better value.

    I sympathise with the colour laser printer owner above who finds new toner more expensive than a new machine. I have a Samsung printer here that will go to ebay shortly, before it runs out completely.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    you get what you pay for....

    As a pro photographer i print plenty of photographs. If i was to use genuine epson inks then it would cost me a fortune and eat into my profits.

    I use a continuous ink supply system (CISS) which I got from along with the pigment ink. I also get my paper from them and they do a free ICC profile when you buy paper from them (any ink any printer). The results are PERFECT prints every time, a massive saving on genuine inks and papers (watch are not as good as they claim, try printing monochrome and you get a blue cast!!!)

    You can get some cheaper ink systems from fleabay, around £20 or so, but be careful on what ink you use....

    and as a end note, for all of you trying to uses various cleaners to clean blocked ink jets... most ink is not dissolvable in spirit based cleaners, you could leave it for a week in ethanol and you will still have a blocked head, but use a mild detergent and de-ionized water and it will be unblocked in no time....

    Mines the one with the camera in the pocket...

    (ps , do not work for or on behalf of photospeed, just find them a good company to deal with for my photographic needs)

  41. Patrick Stead

    A word from the company behind this survey

    Having triggered this debate with our survey, I felt it was only right to respond here to some of the interesting discussion threads and the problems people have encountered.

    Firstly, it’s important to understand the distinction between refilling and remanufacturing. Refilling is simply topping up a cartridge with more ink, which anyone can do providing they have a Black & Decker drill, ink, patience and an understanding spouse/housemate! It is fiddly and messy and can have extremely poor results from ruined carpets to wrecked printers.

    In contrast, remanufacturing is a large scale operation using innovative techniques and equipment to remove every last trace of ink from the original cartridge before refilling. Crucially the correct remanufacturing process helps prevent problems such as clogging and cross contamination of inks (affecting print quality) that many people have outlined above and also ensures the production of cartridges that are indistinguishable in quality from original branded versions.

    One scare story that continually comes up is that a printer warranty is invalidated by the use of anything other than a branded cartridge. This is untrue and only serves to scare off people who genuinely want to save a few quid and also make an effort towards sustainability and our environment.

    For those who have tried remanufactured products and had a less than satisfactory experience it is worth recognising that there are those who do it right and those who cut corners. We remanufacture well in excess of 100,000 cartridges a week for household name retailers, and stationary suppliers and last year invested over £250,000 purely on research and development.

    I’d also say that when it comes to premium remanufactured brands here in the UK I don’t think you could do better than buying from WH Smith, Viking Direct or Office Depot.

    If you want to see the sort of things we do, please take a look at our video, here:

    You can also find a full list of the cartridges we remanufacture, here:

  42. Dick Emery


    I've been using compatibles with my Canon MP520 (chipped too) and they were absolutely fine. They last ages too. I got 8 cartridges (2 black and 6 colour) for £20 delivered.

    You lot must be shopping in the wrong places.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    been there, seen that, printed the t-shirt...

    For the most part, branded ink - as in the ink that's designed for your printer, works massively better - I've been through this mill so many damn times and have come a cropper with shitty quality prints and blocked up printers, it's not funny.

    This whole article is a red herring - but that depends how much you care about the quality of your prints AND the quality of the printer you use.

    Sure, if you opted for a cheap as chips grotty little printer, it's not going to matter much what ink you use, BUT, if you want quality prints (we're talking photo's here folks), your going to opt for a quality printer.

    You gets what you pay for.

    Recent experience - a Pixma printer, the Canon ink creates flawless vibrant prints, the 'generics' nearly fucked up the printer and resulted in really crappy quality.

  44. JaitcH

    It seems to be a cultural thing

    In my travels I notice that some societies, North American and SE Asian, look for more economic opportunities than others such as Europe or South America.

    Some companies, like HP, claim they have some magical additive that improves performance BUT they DO have semiconductor or mechanical devices to make resetting impossible for not quite empty or refilled heads - these semiconductor replacements are on sale in North America and SE Asia.

    Personally I like those Brother network printers - I have seen them working in mining operations underground, supplied as power station equipment, and gracing elegant offices. They take refills / after market toner without an argument.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My last ever HP has just died.

    I had a lovely HP photo printer with a CIS system, which suddenly came up with fatal printing mechanism errors and refused to print.

    Searching the web it appeared that the firmware appeared to detect non HP carts and then fail later in mysterious ways, all demanding an HP service before printing was available again.

    By poncing about unplugging cables inside the printer it was possible to fool the printer into starting again and on restart the seriously fatal printer mechanism failure miraculaously disappeared giving another 12 months of perfect printing.

    However this last time I have not been able to fool it into resetting and HP will not come up with the code to allow access to the engineers menu which has the reset command there.

    Enough is enough - No more HPs for me..

  46. This post has been deleted by its author

  47. thecakeis(not)alie


    My primary printer is a Rolan Raven PR-2417 Dot Matrix printer. Still on it's second ribbon. Works like a hot damn. My secondary (for when I need something nicer looking) is an HP Laserjet IIL. I think it's on it's eventeen billionth toner. (I stole it from work when we upgraded.) Can't seem to kill it.

    I've got at least three other beat up old laserjets (mono and colour) in the basement just waiting for one of the others to run out of ink and/or die. (Or a friend to need a new printer...whatever.)

    Still...that old dot matrix does everything I need it to do. On the really, REALLY rare occasion I print something. I think the last time was 2008...

  48. Alan Brown Silver badge

    see all above comments

    all the "compatibles" seem to play up.

    I'm running about 20,000 pages/month through each of our 5 workgroup printers. If a compatible toner dumps its guts then the savings are wiped out in cleanup costs.

    Having said that..... I'm about to buy new printers and sure as shit am looking at WHICH printers work well and have lowest TCO. HP and Lexmark need not apply...

  49. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    A foot in both camps.

    We currently have two printers at home, both hp inkjets, one being for general printing and the other being for photo pics. The general printer is an old Deskjet and is now obsolete, with the cartridges unavailable from hp. For the last two years it has survived very nicely on a diet of non-hp black ink cartridges (because black text is what we print the most of) and hp colour cartridges bought in bulk off e-bay (genuine, new and unopened, and about 60% less than what they cost when they were available direct from hp). Paper varies from standard 80gsm hp paper (when it's on offer) to the stuff from the local stationary shop. I clean the internals frequently and have had no clogged heads, and for the jobs required the black quality is just fine. Considering we originally got the printer about six-plus years ago for £50-odd I'm definately not complaining, and I will probably keep it until I can't even buy re-fills for it.

    The second printer is my hp MFP and also used for printing digital photos. Nothing goes near it but genuine hp ink cartridges and hp paper as I spent hours getting the colour balance set just right. I can print photos of such good quality people assume they came from a commercial photo developer. For me, the extra cost of the hp original supplies is more than justified by the quality.

  50. Francis Offord

    No not us, say all the leaders

    I was, for several years, happy to use branded cartridges for Epson but they have now outpriced me with their continual increases. I tried to use lookalikes but after they changed the format I was unable to use those and after many ignored requests for information I have been forced to change to another system altogether. My complaint regards the pricing of the inks available with an average of £54:00 minimum per gallon, a little excessive I believe. I have been unable to elucidate the reason for these excessive prices AND, I question the legality of their built in restrictions which prevent me from using other manufacturers inks by failing to permit my choice of inks. I am aware that their excuse is that it "may damage your printer" but this problem has never been explained to me and I question it's accuracy. It is typical of American business to make their issues predominant in regard to profits. I am also aware that they claim, rather lamely, that the Epson company is Japanese rather than American but "Who Owns It actually? and who is calling the tune to which we are all expected to dance? It is my contention that this company are exerting undue influence on a product which has been sold to ME and is therefore my property. I should have the freedom to use whichever inks I choose but this right is denied me by the dictators and there is no sanction applied, WHY? Surely it against the severe "anti trust" laws of the United States for this to happen, or it should be. The US government should/must become me involved on the side of equity. It is my strongly felt and firmly held belief that we are being treated as simpletons, as usual, and that we are being held

    "by the balls" with the added fillip of Grab, Twist and Squeeze. Painful! Would Epson like to comment on my complaint?

    Francis J. P. Offord.

  51. candtalan

    The coming generation of printers ...

    .... are being made with *smaller* cartridge print capacity. This is what my (UK) retail contact said when I asked them if buying a newer inkjet would/could reduce ink costs. The message was very clear - across all manufacturers, and all types of printers, apparently, the capacity is being reduced. So, more replacements, eh?

  52. Nick Pettefar


    With our erratic printing causing expensive inkjet cartridge clogging I bought a Samsung colour PS duplex LASER five years ago and am still using it now with the original toner cartridges. It is about the size of a Mini but that is about the only drawback. Duplex and built-in Postscript is wonderful of course. Cost less than £300 if I recall correctly. Use it with a cheap network print server and so anything can print on it.

    The waste toner thing fills up and Samsung expect you to ditch it and buy another but emptying it and using a suitably bent Q-tip you can wipe clean the sensor channel and re-use it - 4th time now. The toner cartridges claim they are empty from time to time but taking them out and gently shaking them (over a newspaper) re-settles the toner and they are magically OK again.

    I am sure I can buy replacement toner from somewhere or other. If not then the ridiculous price of the replacement Samsung toner cartridges would make me buy another printer.

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