Crisis Management Review: HP Sneaks in Update Blocking 3rd Party Ink

Erik Bernstein crisis management 1 Comment

The dangers of deception

When HP quietly pushed out a “security update” that caused many of its printers to stop working with third party and recycled ink cartridges that had been fine the day before, consumers and printer-23358_640activists were outraged. This outrage was fueled by several issues, including environmental concerns and opposition to the practice of “tying” which reduces competition and forces consumers into buying branded products. While those certainly inflated the issue, the most damaging aspect of the situation was simply that HP was not honest.

Although there is some built-in tolerance for things like hype and marketing, by and large consumers expect honesty regarding the products you’re selling them. Instead of stating exactly what the update did and why, HP tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes. And, in this case, injury was piled on insult for those using third party cartridges when their printers suddenly wouldn’t work.

Now let’s take a look at HP’s response:

HP engineers the best and most-secure printing systems in the world. We strive to always provide the highest-quality experiences for our customers and partners. As a new company, we are committed to transparency in all of our communications and when we fall short, we call ourselves out.

There is confusion in the market regarding a printer firmware update – here are the facts:

We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP.

HP printers and original HP ink products deliver the best quality, security and reliability. When ink cartridges are cloned or counterfeited, the customer is exposed to quality and potential security risks, compromising the printing experience.

As is standard in the printing business, we have a process for authenticating supplies. 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 apologize. Although only a small number of customers have been affected, one customer who has a poor experience is one too many.

It is important to understand that all third party cartridges with original HP security chips continue to function properly.

As a remedy for the small number of affected customers, we have issued an optional firmware update that removes the dynamic security feature. To get the update, customers should visit, select their product, select the product support page, and click on the Software and Driver table to download it. Additional information about this update, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found in HP’s Support Forum.

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.

However, we commit to improving our communication so that customers understand our concerns about cloned and counterfeit supplies. Again, to our loyal customers who were affected, we apologize.

Jon Flaxman
Chief Operating Officer, HP Inc.

As far as crisis response goes, HP’s is actually pretty solid. They have obviously decided internally that they want to keep consumers using HP-branded cartridges, and although that decision is bound to draw continued criticism it is the company’s right to choose. The one item I didn’t care for was the statement that the update was released, “to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges”. Things veer dangerously close to spin with that sentence considering it’s clear to anyone looking into the situation that protecting the IP.

There are a couple of apologies for the communication issues (aka deception), and the ultimate mea culpa is offering a patch that will allow consumers to turn the cartridge blocking “feature” off. Although HP makes clear in the end that it does intend to vigorously protect its IP, perhaps it’s learned a lesson about doing this up front and not playing sneaky.

Erik Bernstein

Comments 1

  1. Linda R Killma

    Thanks for the info.. this is so frustrating.. we buy their printers and they don’t allow for open market on ink cartridges. I’m using an HP refurbished cartridge and it doesn’t work either.

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