Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hewlett-Packard be Damned?

You recall your wise earlier thoughts about the little things making the biggest difference in this newly small world?

Two days after the printer ink of your trusty Hewlett-Packard (HP) All-in-One ran out, one of these little things slaps you in the face.

You go to your local German office supply store and by printer ink. You come home, pop in the new cartridges, click on print, and the printer software flashes this message: illegal ink cartridges.

You verify the cartridges are the correct ones. You remove them from the printer, put them back in, jiggle them a little.

The message is the same.

A Google search exposes strange discussions about "localized" printer cartridges. You dig deeper and find other users who had problems with HP ink cartridges afther they moved from Europe to the US.

HP's support website does not say anything. But there is a cute "ask Meg" link somewhere on the HP website. You write a nice query, saying that you liked HP products in the past, and you describe your current issue. Send.

A few days later, an email from HP Germany Customer Support arrives. It says that you cannot use HP ink purchased in Europe without setting the printer to "Europe". It contains instructions on how to set your printer to "Europe".

You lose it. If you were a screaming madman, you would let out a yell that shatters the window panes. Instead, out comes a little whimper that only causes one of the cats to come over and ask "meow?" what's wrong.

Some more research confirms it. Hewlett-Packard makes printers that work with the different paper sizes of the US and Europe, that take either 240 or 110V without modification but that do not cartridges from the respective other continent.

They are sticking small chips on the bottom of otherwise identical cartridges. This way, they can sell cartridges in Europe for a lot more, and you, my dear consumer, are fucked.

A small chip and a software setting are all it takes to force you to buy their ink (other ink manufactures are locked out) at higher prices.

European consumer protection gives zip about this.

In my no longer humble opinion, this "feature" copied from the DVD and music mafia "regions",  should incur the wrath of consumers everywhere.

To me, making you buy their - and only their - ink is the same as a car manufacturer sticking chips on tyres so that you'd have to buy their tyres.  Wonder why no car maker has done that yet? Because they would be ridiculed out of business.

How long until they put a dirt cheap RFID chip in HP printer paper, so that you will get an "illegal paper" message if use the cheap Staples brand paper?

Seeing this blantant rollback of consumer choice, I regret that the tool of  class action lawsuits is not available in Germany.

Other printer makers may have followed HP's lead. Let's go paperless.

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