Branded printer ink more expensive than 32-year-old Scotch Whisky

Abigail Fenton
·Writer
·3-min read
Brits could save over £400 a year by buying cheaper ink for their printers
Brits could save over £400 a year by buying cheaper ink for their printers. Photo: Bank Phrom/Unsplash

Most Brits buy branded ink for their printer, despite the “extortionate” price tag, rather than go for much cheaper alternatives, according to Which?.

Just one set of replacement cartridges for the Epson Expression Premium XP-900 costs £96 — or £480 to replace the ink five times a year.

At £2.04 a millilitre, this makes Epson (SEKEY) ink just one brand that is more expensive than 32-year-old Scotch whisky (£1.71 per litre), Chanel No 5. perfume (£1.13), and premium champagne (30p), Which? found.

Meanwhile, one third-party alternative “deemed of similar quality” costs just £70 for five replacement sets — a massive saving of £410.

But, despite this, the majority of Brits — 58% — regularly buy branded cartridges over cheaper ones. In fact, two in five (41%) people have never even tried non-branded ink.

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In the consumer group’s survey of nearly 9,000 people, two in five said they were worried third-party ink “may be incompatible” with their printer (43%), print quality would be compromised (30%) or the third-party ink might damage their printer (30%).

But just one in 10 (11%) of those who purchase cheaper alternatives said they routinely experience cartridges not working, the survey found. Only 4% said they had experienced leaking, and just 3% found print quality to be lower than with branded ink.

Many third-party brands offer guarantees to repair or replace printers for free, if the cartridge doesn’t work, the research found.

What’s more, customers said some of these brands are easier to use than those from Epson and HP (HPQ) — something that went for toner, too.

But compatibility is an issue in the case of some HP printers that are specifically designed to stop customers from using third-party ink using something called “Dynamic Security”, which rejects the cartridges, Which? said.

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Although the brand claims this is to protect its customers, respondents generally said third-party ink is “better value” and a “better experience” — and some have even bought a new printer so they didn’t have to keep shelling out for HP ink.

“Printer ink shouldn’t cost the earth, and we’ve found that there are lots of unbranded products that are just as good as their branded counterparts and only a fraction of the cost — so you can keep your hard-earned cash for actual luxuries rather than spending it on printing,” said Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine.

“Choosing third-party cartridges should be a personal choice and not dictated by the make of your printer. If you are in the market for a new printer, it might be best to avoid HP if you don’t want to fork out for expensive HP ink cartridges.”