Epson firmware update stops printing with third-party ink, lawsuit alleges

Epson WorkForce WF-110
(Image credit: Epson)

Over in the US, a class action lawsuit has been levelled at Epson alleging that the manufacturer blocked the use of third-party ink cartridges in some of its printers.

The allegation runs that this was achieved via a firmware update which made some Epson printers capable of detecting when such third-party cartridges were being used, and essentially preventing any printing if that was the case (with an error stating that the printer cannot recognize the cartridge – an image of which is provided).

As spotted by The Register, the lawsuit filed in California accuses Epson of “anti-competitive, unfair, fraudulent and oppressive and illegal conduct”.

The claim further runs that Epson did not inform owners of printers that this particular firmware update would instigate these measures, and that “for many users, these software updates effectively ruined their printers”. Or indeed forced them to buy more expensive official Epson ink cartridges…

Epson printers which didn’t apply this firmware update can still run third-party ink cartridges, according to the lawsuit.

Several plaintiffs are named in the suit who own Epson WorkForce WF-3640 and Epson XP-830 printers.

Printing money

It’s no secret that in the world of printers, the profit lies in ongoing ink sales, and indeed often manufacturers sell the devices themselves very cheaply in the knowledge that they’ll be making the real money in long-term running costs. But not, of course, if owners are buying their ink cartridges from elsewhere…

The suit goes to pains to point out that third-party ink cartridges cost “substantially less”, as anyone who has ever used a printer will doubtless be aware of.

Naturally, printer makers argue that the potentially dubious quality of third-party ink – especially very cheap cartridges – can result in lower quality printing, and possibly even damage to your device.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).