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What’s the story with printer ink cartridges?(IRELAND)
A licence to print money: While the ink cartridges used for photograph quality inkjet printers for home use can’t actually print money, people who use them frequently often wish they did as they cost so much and need to be replaced so often.Anyone who has bought themselves a printer for €60 only to realise that the replacement cartridges needed to keep them printing cost at least as much again will not be surprised to learn that the ink is more expensive than vintage champagne, almost seven times more, according to one report.In fact printer ink is so expensive that a recent investigation in the US uncovered a healthy trade in fake branded cartridges, putting it right up there with Gucci handbags and Rolex watches as the counterfeit item of choice for many criminals.When digital cameras became affordable and the quality of colour printers improved dramatically, consumers started looking forward to unlimited cheap photographs printed instantly at home. But it was not to be. A single high-quality A4 colour photograph can use more than €1 worth of ink, depending on the printer, while an A4 sheet of photo-quality paper will cost around 50 cent.There are ways to make savings. Unless high quality prints are essential, the draft printing mode should always be selected and if colour is not completely necessary, documents should be printed in greyscale. Generic ink cartridges are significantly cheaper than brand names while having cartridges refilled rather than replaced can cost as much as 60 per cent less.Gerry Smyth, managing director of Cartridge World, which specialises in refilling cartridges says that like all businesses there are good and bad ink products available and people need to shop around to make sure the ink they are getting is of a sufficiently high quality. For its part Cartridge World offers a comprehensive guarantee on both the quality of the prints its refilled cartridges produce, and the machines that use them.”One of the best forms of advertising is word of mouth and I don’t think our business would have grown at the rate it has in recent years if we did not offer a quality service,” Smyth says. There are now 41 Cartridge World outlets in Ireland with five more in the pipeline compared to two years ago when there was just six.The chain offers a full refund if users notice any difference between its refills and the original cartridges. “We also guarantee the machines and we do it with total confidence. The inks we use are specific to the individual printer models and are filled to the exact specifications.” This is the stuff of manufacturers’ nightmares. One of the reasons cartridges are so expensive is that many printer manufacturers sell the hardware at a loss and rely on the cartridges to ensure long-term profits. In fact some companies can make as much as 90 per cent of their profits from the sale of ink cartridges.They are so loath to see people circumventing the need to buy high-cost replacements that many will void warranties if generic inks or refills are used and some have actually started installing chips in an attempt to force users to rely on their branded cartridges. Some manufacturers have even gone so far as to develop cartridge killing technology which will fuse a cartridge and render it useless once the ink falls below a certain level.This is not just objectionable from the perspective of financially strapped consumers – there are serious environmental concerns about developing products with such an extreme level of in-built obsolescence.”Recycling is a huge part of our business,” says Smyth. “There are huge benefits to the environment to be gained from refilling and recycling the cartridges. And it is recycling that saves people money, in some cases as much as 50 per cent of the full price.” When buying a printer, a good rule of thumb is the cheaper the printer the dearer the cartridge. Make sure to ask what the price per page of each printer is. If they don’t know, don’t buy it. Some companies display the information on their websites while reviews of other models can be easily found online and will have the information as a matter of course. Work out roughly how many pages you will want to print per week and then work out the cost over a couple of years.Above all else, when buying a printer make sure to get the one that meets your needs and not one the store wants to sell you. If you don’t want to print in colour, a good black-and-white laser printer costs around €100. They are faster, cost less to run and produce clearer text than inkjet printers. Entry-level colour laser printers cost from €200 and while they cannot print photos they are fine for simple graphics.Earlier this summer British consumer magazine Which? carried out a survey on printers. Among its best buys was the Canon Pixma IP5200R with a price tag in the UK of £81 (€120.30). Which? described it as a “great all-rounder printer that produced good-quality printouts in all the tests”. Even with this best buy the costs associated with it were significant. The price of printing a single black and white page was 2p (3 cent)while the cost of printing an A4 photo was 73p (€1.08). Based on average home usage the projected three-year cost of running the printer was £156 (€232). A couple of Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart models also scored highly in the Which? survey.One brand reviewed as part of the survey was given a savage review particularly because it warned that the ink was running low when the cartridges were still nearly half full. It is not alone in this and a number of conspiracy theorists PriceWatch spoke to believe some pessimistic machines are programmed to say the cartridges are half empty when machines of a more sunny disposition would declare them half full, just one more reason to do your homework before splashing out.
Author2006-09-06 at 10:18:00 am
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