Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Savings, and Controversy, of Printer Cartridges

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Savings, and Controversy, of Printer Cartridges

Article excerpt

It's a truism that as a general rule consumers seek bargains and businesses seek profits. With computer printers, the healthiest margins come not from the sale of the ink jet or laser printers themselves but from the cartridges needed when the originals run out of ink or toner (powdered ink used with laser printers). With some heavily used printers, the cost of the cartridges used during one year can be more than the cost of the printer itself.

Looking to save costs, some individuals and businesses buy replacement cartridges not from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) but from third-party companies.

But along with savings, there's a risk. And there's a legal battle raging.

When the cartridge in an ink jet or laser printer runs out of ink or toner, you have three main choices:

* You can buy a new cartridge from the same company that made the printer. This is the easiest option--printers typically come with all the information you need to order replacements. It can be the safest option, since you know the cartridge and the ink or toner will work just as well as what the printer came with. This is especially true when quality is paramount, as it can be when printing photos.

But OEM cartridges are the most expensive option. Beware of suspiciously low-cost cartridges labeled as OEM products. Reports indicate an influx of low-quality counterfeits from China, Malaysia and Latin America.

* You can buy a compatible or remanufactured cartridge from a third-party company. Compatible cartridges cost as little as half that of OEM cartridges, while remanufactured cartridges, made from empty OEM cartridges, can cost as little as one-third the price. Along with these cost benefits, with the recycled units there are also environmental benefits because fewer cartridges wind up in landfills.

But some companies selling cheap replacement ink-jet cartridges fill them with ink that's not fully compatible with the printer, which may clog the print head. Some companies selling cheap replacement laser toner cartridges don't clean or replace cartridge components when needed, which may leak toner and damage the printer.

* You can buy an ink jet refill kit. They typically come with ink and a syringe that you use to refill the cartridge yourself. This option can cost as little as 10 percent of the cost of buying new OEM cartridges.

But the kits can be messy, with some easier to use than others.

OEMs really want you to buy replacement cartridges from them, and they're using various tactics to this end. …

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