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French Version

Interface: Printer manufacturers hit back at re-fillers

Surely, a piece of sophisticated hardware, like an ink-jet printer, with all its advanced technology components should be priced higher than just JD20 more than the consumable ink.

JORDAN (Star) - It's become obvious, for many years now, that printer manufacturers do not make much money on selling the printers, but make most of their money selling the ink.

How else could you explain the phenomena of a brand new HP, Epson, Canon or Lexmark ink printer costing under JD 50, while the color ink cartridge costs JD30! Also, in the United States, inkjet printers are sold for around $80, and their ink cartridges cost $50.

Surely, a piece of sophisticated hardware, like an ink-jet printer, with all its advanced technology components should be priced higher than just JD20 more than the consumable ink.

The truth is that the real cost you pay, throughout the year, is the ink. If you need a new cartridge every month, then you'll end up paying around JD 360 a year for ink.

Compare that to the 'small', one-time investment you make when buying a JD 50 printer and it becomes clear that printer manufacturers want to get your foot in the door, so to speak, and then make the real money selling you the printer's consumables.

The same, of course, applies to lasers whereby the amounts you pay for ink toners is even more. Today, you can get a low-end HP laser printer for around JD 250 and pay well over JD 50 per ink toner.

This whole business model is based on ink cartridge/toner profitability, but it seems to be running into trouble now.

The re-fill market is growing. In the United States, the ink re-fill market is worth a whopping $ 3 billion a year! It is getting so big, that it's eating up cartridge and toner sales, thereby putting pressure on the printer manufacturers to lower their ink cartridge prices.

By doing so, they will also lower their profits, and find themselves in a situation where they don't make enough money on the hardware or the consumables!

Even here in Jordan, computers shops offer re-fills to customers for prices much lower than new cartridges or toners. However, not all printer toners can be re-filled and many re-fills don't work; because the printer somehow fails to identify that there is new ink.

These glitches are not coincidental. It is part of the printer manufacturers strategy of fighting back.

Recent reports state that 'the printer giants' have developed a chip installed on ink cartridges that makes it tough for the cartridges to be refilled.

Some chips warn refill users that the cartridge is "invalid." Sometimes they even disable the printer.

Another strategy being utilized by printer manufacturers is offering the refills them selves, at price lower than a new cartridge but not quite as low as commercial re-fillers.

Actually, what they do is take your old cartridge, and thousands of others, refill them all then start offering them as second-hand cartridges. They call it re-manufacturing and believe it's a cut above re-filling because it comes with a guarantee from the original printer manufacturer that the re-filled cartridge will work.

This strategy, coupled with the smart chips on the replacement cartridges could, potentially, put the commercial re-fillers out of business.

However re-fillers are hitting back by also using technology to their advantage. They are duplicating some of the smart chips on their re-filled cartridges.

So, the competition is now at its height and it benefits consumers. More choice and lower prices is what we want. But what we really want is an ink cartridge that lasts longer.

That would provide substantial savings. Maybe, soon, that will be the next competitive twist in this battle between printer manufacturers are re-filling companies.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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