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HP Australia caught in firmware controversy

May 3, 2018

(Copyright: Toner Printer Copier)

The OEM’s Australian subsidiary has got itself into hot water over the sale of 220,000 printers designed to prevent the use of third-party cartridges.

As ARN reports, as a result of this lack of transparency, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has stated that “HP has agreed to a court-enforceable undertaking to compensate customers who were unable to use non-HP ink cartridges due to an undisclosed technology in its printers.”

This technology is a dynamic security feature (DSF), which either already came with one of the printers or would have been installed in a later firmware update. The purpose of the DSF is to “prevent non-HP ink cartridges from being used in HP printers.”

“Consumers were not made aware of the restriction on using non-HP ink cartridges when buying the printer or downloading the firmware update, and were denied the choice to accept or reject it.” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said.

“The ACCC was also very concerned that HP used technology to change these printers’ functionality after purchase, without alerting consumers to the restriction on the use of non-HP ink cartridges which was being installed.”

HP has admitted to the likely breach of Australian Consumer Law “by engaging in false, misleading or deceptive conduct.”

The OEM’s undertaking stated: “HP PPS failed to disclose to consumers in Australia that some of the Relevant Printers were enabled with the DSF and that the DSF was intended to prevent the Relevant Printers from printing with non-HP ink cartridges, when HP PPS knew that some customers were using, and wanted to use, non-HP ink cartridges”

An HP Australia representative revealed that the OEM was “pleased” to have reached an agreement with the ACCC, going on to say that “the DSF is used in select printers to protect the quality of the consumer experience from potential functionality risks that can be introduced using cartridges with cloned chips or modified or non-HP circuitry, to protect HP’s intellectual property, and to reduce counterfeiting of HP supplies and warranty fraud.”

“HP Australia will continue using dynamic security in select printers in accordance with its settlement with the ACCC,” the spokesperson said.

HP’s campaign against clones and similar third-party products has been well-documented, with the OEM releasing a damning leaflet in October 2017 warning of the dangers of clones, counterfeits, and remanufactured cartridges. While the wording of the leaflet had to be amended, following backlash from ETIRA and other members of the remanufacturing industry, HP’s stance remains vehement; so much so that this is far from being the first controversy the company has experienced over firmware that blocks third-party cartridges.

In this case, HP has been compelled to offer compensation of AU$50 ($37.6/€31.4) to each customer who bought one of the affected printers; as the ACCC estimates that over 2000 customers were affected, this will bring the total amount of compensation to above the AU$100,000($75,383/€62,890) mark.

“As a remedy for the small number of affected customers, we will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature,” HP Chief Operating Officer Jon Flaxman revealed via a blog. “We expect the update to be ready within two weeks.”

In addition, going forward, the OEM will have to reveal the presence of its DSF on its printer packaging, as well as at the point of sale, and explain the effect this may have on the use of third-party cartridges.

 

 

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