HP has backtracked on a software update that blocked some ink cartridges made by third parties, and apologising to customers for the lack of communication. On September 13th, a firmware update, apparently released in March of this year became active, and disabled the use of any non HP security chipped cartridges.

 

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Some of the error messages encountered by HP users included ‘cartridge problem,’ ‘one or more cartridges are missing or damaged,’ and ‘older generation cartridge.’ There were also reports on HP forums that genuine HP cartridges were being rejected as ‘damaged,’ or faulty.

A campaign calling on HP to reverse the move was launched, backed by rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

A message via a blogpost on the HP website apologised for the lack of communication from the IT giant, but crucially, not for the hidden actual firmware date itself:

“The most recent firmware update included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned. We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologise. Although only a small number of customers have been affected, one customer who has a poor experience is one too many.”

HP will “issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature” The ‘optional’ update will be available within a few weeks.

The EFF had argued in their public campaign that the move by HP to only allow users to install ‘genuine’ HP ink cartridges is “rightly decried by economists and competition regulators as an invitation to monopoly pricing and reduced competition and innovation. HP customers should choose HP ink because it is the best, not because their printer won’t work with a competitor’s brand.”