HP customers are showing frustration online as the vendor continues to use firmware updates to discourage or, as users report, outright block the use of non-HP-brand ink cartridges in HP printers. HP has already faced class-action lawsuits and bad publicity from Dynamic Security, but that hasn't stopped the company from expanding the practice.
Dynamic Security is a feature used by HP printers to authenticate ink cartridges and prevent use of cartridges that aren't HP-approved. As the company explains:
"Dynamic security relies on the printer’s ability to communicate with the security chips or electronic circuitry on the cartridges. HP uses dynamic security measures to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property.
"Dynamic security equipped printers are intended to work only with cartridges that have new or reused HP chips or electronic circuitry. The printers use the dynamic security measures to block cartridges using non-HP chips or modified or non-HP electronic circuitry. Reused, remanufactured, and refilled cartridges that reuse the HP chip or electronic circuitry are unaffected by dynamic security."
HP introduced Dynamic Security to some printers in 2016, and since 2018, it has paid millions in class-action lawsuits, including to customers in the US, Australia, and Italy.
After paying up, it seems HP is set on continuing to use DRM to discourage its printer customers from spending ink and toner money outside of the HP family.
"HP have updated their printers to outright ban ‘non-HP’ ink! They no longer shows the 'can’t guarantee quality' message, but instead cancels your print completely until you inset a HP ink cartridge," Reddit user grhhull postedTuesday. "After contacting HP, they advised 'this is due to the recent ‘update’ of all printers.'"
It's unclear when HP issued updates for which model printers, but there are alleged customer complaints online stemming from late last year, showing plenty of customers surprised by the fact that following an update, their printer no longer worked with non-HP ink cartridges. Some pointed to third-party brands they had relied on for years.
HP community support threads include complaints about the OfficeJet 7740 and OfficeJet Pro 6970. HP lists both printers, as well as others, as able to circumnavigate Dynamic Security under certain conditions. However, HP's support page states that this only applies to models manufactured before December 1, 2016.
For more examples, there are also comments on HP's support community suggesting that HP's OfficeJet 6978 and 6968 were recently affected. Both printers are discontinued, but HP's product pages make it clear that the fickle nature of Dynamic Security means that third-party ink could stop working at any time.
"Only intended to be used with cartridges using an HP original chip. Cartridges using a non-HP chip may not work, and those that work today may not work in the future," the page for the 6968 says.
The 6978's product page similarly states that the printer is meant for cartridges with "a new or reused HP chip, and it uses dynamic security measures to block cartridges using a non-HP chip. Periodic firmware updates will maintain the effectiveness of these measures and block cartridges that previously worked."
And HP's Dynamic Security page also leaves the door open for the sudden bricking of functioning ink:
"Firmware updates delivered periodically over the internet will maintain the effectiveness of the dynamic security measures," the page reads.
"Updates can improve, enhance, or extend the printer’s functionality and features, protect against security threats, and serve other purposes, but these updates can also block cartridges using a non-HP chip or modified or non-HP circuitry from working in the printer, including cartridges that work today."
Although HP has somewhat covered its behind by basically saying that a Dynamic Security-labeled HP printer can start blocking non-HP ink at any moment and without notice, that doesn't make for a favorable customer experience, as numerous HP support threads and social media posts illustrate.