Printer ink cartridges now even more of a rip-off

Need more reasons to go paperless? Take a look at what printer makers do with ink.

Printer ink has always been expensive, but as The Guardian reveals the price per millilitre rocketed recently with printer makers serving ever smaller portions in their cartridges.

The Guardian says a decade ago Epson ink cartridges contained 16ml. Today’s have just 3.5ml.

HP sold a 42ml cartridge in the UK for £20. Now a 5ml cartridge costs  £13. For details see Printer ink cartridges: why you’re paying more but getting a lot less.

Printer makers sell inkjets and lasers at cost or a small loss aiming to make money from cartridge sales. Most printers come with small amounts of sample ink to get you started, so it doesn’t take customers long to get to their first cartridge purchase.

From then on, the printer makers are in profit.

Customers fight back against rip-off branded cartridges by buying third-party ink. There are replacement cartridges and kits that allow you to top-up the ink in a cartridge. It can get messy.

Printer makers used to argue third-party ink would damage printers. That’s perverse: it takes five or six refills to damage a print head. Given the low cost of printer hardware and the huge savings from third-party ink, customers come out ahead if they regularly upgrade printers – and there’s the bonus of newer technology. Although this unnecessary consumption is not good for the planet.

Printer makers are on firmer ground when they say third-party ink gives low-quality results. We get through a lot of ink in our business – paperless publishing works up to a point, but we still need to print frequent proofs. In my experience third-party ink is fine for documents, but lousy for printing photos.