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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
'Raw deal' on printer ink
Bottles of champagne
The ink we print with can cost more than vintage champagne
Consumers are getting a raw deal when it comes to the ink used in printers, according to research by Which? magazine.

With the top brand names costing more than vintage champagne, it is an unnecessary waste that people can ill afford, said the campaigning magazine.

Tests on a crop of colour printers found that many gave premature warnings that the cartridges were running out of ink.

Which? is also critical of the overall cost of printer ink. It says some cartridges cost over seven times more than vintage champagne per millilitre.

It recommends that people buy generic cartridges which are often half the price of branded products.

Protecting customers?

Colour HP Cartridge costs 29
This works out at 1.70 per millilitre
1985 Dom Perignon costs 23p per millilitre
The magazine suggests that people squeeze every drop out of the ink they use, ignoring the premature warnings that the ink is low and continuing until they see a drop in quality of printing.

Most cartridges give people the option of continuing printing. But Which? found that Epson embeds a chip which stops the cartridge running when the ink runs low.

The company says that it employs the cut-off system to "protect customers from accidentally damaging their printer or producing sub-standard print quality".

A Which? researcher who over-rode the system found that in one case he could print up to 38% more good quality pages, even though the chip stated that the cartridge was empty.

The least amount of extra pages that could be printed was 17%.

The cost of ink has been the subject of an Office of Fair Trading investigation.

It has accused manufacturers of a lack of transparency about the price of ink and called for an industry standard for measuring ink cartridge performance.

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