I stumbled upon this (off-topic) question on electronics.SE

Are products designed to fail?

I have heard that some companies trick consumers into buying and replacing printers & cartridges more frequently by manipulating parts. For example, when I shake the cartridge of my printer model after a "Empty" message, I can print a lot more pages. I also found articles about lawsuits concerning this topic.

Another source says:

Yes, it turns out that many of the ink cartridges made by HP and Lexmark have switches in them that make the cartridges fail after a certain period of time, whether they're empty or not. This isn't just some crazy conspiracy theory, either. HP's senior "ink scientist" (yes, that's actually his real title), Nils Miller, admitted to this during an interview.

Of course, companies are allowed to produce low-quality products from a legal point of view, but alerting that the "cartridge is empty" when its consistently still half-full doesn't merelyindicate a low-quality measurement, but a obvious case of fraud. It's like a car tank having a built-in hole. But maybe it's just a legal loop-hole companies can rely on.

Are there some objective and independent studies/surveys investigating and esp. comparing models of different companies (e.g. companies selling printers)?

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    It's neither. They built their printer so it isn't guaranteed to work with less-than-half-empty cartridge. Perfectly legal, even if it smells from consumer's point of view
    – user5341
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 14:15
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    I'm voting to close since there's no actual claim to investigate. Is it legal to print "cartridge empty"? Yes, there is no regulatory authority defining what "empty" cartridge is.
    – user5341
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 14:18
  • @dvk hmm, so should i reformulate the title to: Do companies build cartridges in a way that they will not work with less-than-half-empty cartridge?? I think if there are even lawsuits, there have to be some technical studies affirming this. The legality is just a side-node. The claim is that most companies do this manipulation. Also if i shake my cartridges, they are still usable, so i doubt your statement that they all just build it that way. Do you have a reference for this?
    – Hauser
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 14:29
  • if there's a "notable" claim to that effect (however the mods usually define "notable") that would be a good re-wording, yes. As far as "just built", I was referring to printer firmware, not cartridges. That's what determins "empty" error.
    – user5341
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 14:42
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    Related to this question, though not directly answering it: arstechnica.com/business/2012/05/…
    – Canageek
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 13:34

1 Answer 1


Directly from HP's website (emphasis added):

Some of HP’s inkjet systems are sensitive to air ingestion and water evaporation, which can cause ink to change over time, adversely impacting the printhead and the ink delivery components within the printer. To protect the printing system and ensure print quality, certain HP printers are designed to stop ink cartridges from working when they reach a built-in date, calculated from when each ink cartridge is installed. Some of these systems allow users to override the stoppage and continue printing at their own risk.

A subset of their Inkjet cartridges are designed to stop printing after an arbitrary date as determined by them. For most of the cartridges which have this "feature" the user can override it. For other cartridges, namely HP 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, they will fail without recourse after the predetermined date. Each cartridge comes with a "Warranty Ends" date. The HP 10-13 will expire 24 months after the "Warranty Ends" date, or 30 months after you install it in the printer, whichever comes first. The HP 14 will expire 12 months after the "Warranty Ends" date, or 18 months after you install it in the printer, whichever comes first. See the link for more information.

  • 4
    What if HP determined that in 90% of the cases, a 18-24 month out-of-date cartridge will have gelled ink that either wont work or will damage the printer? I for one will never buy another ink-jet because I don't use it enough so the ink always seems to dry out and clog the head anyway. Having a hard expiration date will just force people to use good, fresh ink rather than spending hours troubleshooting a "broken printer". Anyway, just playing the corporate side here...
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 18:27
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    @JPhi1618 Yes, perhaps the date isn't "arbitrary" but rather based on actual performance data. I personally don't see how there is even a market for cheap inkjet printers. Either you don't print that much in color and you could get by with a B&W laser, and go to the print shop when you really need color. Or you do print a lot of color, and you would probably be better off getting a color laser printer or a more professional inkjet or solid ink printer which tend to have much more affordable per page costs.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 12:43
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    @JPhi1618 Actually, I would expect the expiration date to be set at a point before the failures were showing up. You want to shut them down before they feed bad ink, not after 90% of them are already feeding bad ink. Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 3:19

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