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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Cost of printer ink under fire
Ink pen
Old-fashioned ink is considerably cheaper
A cheap printer could turn out to be a costly buy due to the cost of replacing the ink cartridge, a survey has found.

The price of inkjet printers has come down to as little as 34 but it could cost up to 1,700 in running costs over an 18-month period, a study by Computeractive Magazine has revealed.

Consumers are at risk of being ripped off, said editor Dylan Armbrust.

"Replacement cartridges may cost as much or more than the cost of the printer," he said.

'Ripped off'

The inkjet printer market has been the subject of an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which concluded in a 2002 report that retailers and manufacturers needed to make pricing more transparent for consumers.

Canon i560 - 129; cost of ownership over 18 months - 1029
Epson C44UX - 49; cost of ownership over 18 months - 1157
HP Deskjet 5150 - 89; cost of ownership over 18 months - 708
Lexmark z605 - 40; cost of ownership over 18 months - 1775
"Well over a year later our results suggest that consumers are still at serious risk of being ripped off," said Mr Armbrust.

The Computeractive investigation looked at printers from the big four manufacturers, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark.

The average life of a black ink and colour cartridge was calculated, as was the cost per page of printing.

The cost of the ink was a big factor in driving costs up. Ink cartridges vary in both price and the amount of time they last, from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Responding to the survey, Lexmark said the research was flawed because it did not compare like with like.

"We estimate people will purchase around two cartridges per year. Customers who want to print a large amount should quite rightly look beyond just the ticket price," said a statement from the firm.

Canon said it could not comment on the survey because it had not seen it, but added that the cost of printers and cartridges reflected the amount of money the company spent on research and development.

Last summer a report by Which? Magazine found that some printer ink cost more per millilitre than vintage champagne.

It recommended people use generic cartridges which are often half the price of branded products.

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