HP issues non-apology for blocking third-party ink cartridges

HP was recently caught in the act using a “security update” to prevent its printers from operating with a number of recycled and third-party ink cartridges. After much outcry the company has relented and is issuing a rollback option — but they’ll be damned if they admit any wrongdoing.

“We are committed to transparency in all of our communications and when we fall short, we call ourselves out,” the company states in a post entitled “Dedicated to the best printing experience,” which sort of says it all. “There is confusion in the market regarding a printer firmware update – here are the facts.”

HP says it was just trying to protect its users and provide the best possible experience. Naturally, that meant issuing an update in March, waiting 6 months, and then activating a feature with no warning that caused printers to stop working with cartridges they printed with the day before.

The EFF, Cory Doctorow specifically, wrote a letter publicly shaming HP for this anti-consumer behavior, and the questionable application of DRM attracted enough coverage that HP has been forced to, in their words, call themselves out.

“We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologize,” HP’s post continued. “As a remedy for the small number of affected customers, we will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks.”

Keep an eye on this thread for the download link.

HP, Keurig, Apple, and a hundred other companies all claim to be trying to give you the “best experience” when things of this character occur, but it doesn’t take much to see that the real object is to tie consumers even more tightly to each company’s carefully curated ecosystem. It’s usually pretty clear when that’s a benefit to consumers and when it’s a detriment; don’t be afraid to call them out when it’s the latter.

If you weren’t affected this time, don’t worry — HP will probably give you another chance to get in on the fun:

“We will continue to use security features to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working.”