Printer ink pricier than champagne finds Which?

A study by consumer watchdog Which? has found that branded printer ink remains “staggeringly” more expensive than third-party alternatives.

In some cases printer ink is pricier than some champagnes, its survey found.

Non-branded ink cartridges perform as well or better than their branded alternatives, it suggested.

Manufacturers are suggesting customers do not use third-party ink, with some even blocking them from doing so.

Home printers have become an essential piece of kit in homes over the pandemic, crucial for both home-working and home-schooling.

The watchdog surveyed 10,000 consumers who own inkjet printers, half of whom said they used their printer at least once a week,

It has done similar surveys in the past, and this year concluded that “staggering cost differences” still remain between own-brand and third-party ink suppliers.

Its findings include:

  • A multipack of colour ink for the Epson WorkForce WF-7210DTW printer cost £75.49 (or £1,369 per pint)
  • A multipack of ink for the Brother MFCJ5730DW cost £98.39
  • Cartridges for a Canon Pixma MX475 cost £80.98
  • Ink bought from the manufacturer could be up to 286% more expensive than third-party ink, it suggests
  • Cheaper alternatives can be as cheap as £12.95, saving thousands over a five-year period

It also found that 28 HP printers now use a system called “dynamic security” which recognises cartridges which use non-HP chips, and stops them from working.

Other manufacturers promote ‘approved’, ‘original’ or ‘guaranteed’ cartridges on their websites and in instruction manuals.

It has left consumers confused, said Which?. 56% said that they would only use branded ink, with 39% avoiding third-party ink over fears that they would not work in their printer.

But at the same time people gave similar print quality ratings for original and third-party inks, with 16 non-branded inks coming out ahead of Brother, Canon, Epson and HP.


'Genuine' ink

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Printer ink shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of high-end champagne or Chanel No 5.

“We’ve found that there are lots of third-party products that are outperforming their branded counterparts at a fraction of the cost.”

He added that deciding which ink to put in a printer should be “a personal choice and not dictated by the make of your printer”.

In response, HP said that customers had the option to use HP Instant Ink, a subscription service which it claimed can save customers up to 70%.

“HP offers customers the flexibility to use Original HP cartridges or third-party cartridges that retain the original HP chip or circuitry,” it said.

Epson also highlights its EcoTank printer models which it said come with enough ink to print for up to three years, with replacement bottles costing £7.99.


“As non-genuine inks are not designed or tested by Epson, we cannot guarantee these inks will not damage the printer,” it added.

Brother said that its own brand inks were of a “higher quality” but that customers had the choice of whether to use them or non-branded alternatives.

And Canon said that while third-party inks can work with its printers, “the technology inside is designed to function correctly with our genuine inks”.

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