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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Printer manufacturers are trying to force ink cartridge refilling companies out of business. Cartridge World franchise stores all place a stack of petition forms on their front counters. Their aim is to gather as many signatures as possible. The sheets are sent by franchisees each month to the company's head office in Adelaide.

The petition is to stop printer manufacturers from building in technology that prevents refillers from putting new ink into cartridges. This is done by developing microchips that go on cartridges and that 'talk' to the printer. By developing chips and software that only work with cartridges of original manufacture, printer makers are pushing companies like Cartridge World out of business. Or so they hope.

Cartridge World was established in Adelaide and now has 1600 stores globally. Franchisees expect to recoup costs quickly. In 2004 the company generated $300 million in sales. A 2005 news story claims a new store is being opened every day.

The environmental benefit of reusing cartridges is real, as printer makers do not reuse units that are returned, instead grinding them up and manufacturing new units from the resulting plastic trash. Printer makers reap huge profits from ink. The same 2005 news story says that analysts say that 80 per cent of printer makers' profits derive from ink sales, although only 25 per cent of sales derives from selling ink.

Remanufacturers use third-party inks, and some people claim that you can see the difference. HP sued a refiller in 2005, saying that it had breached its copyright for some of the inks that were being used to remanufacture cartridges. While stores such as Cartridge World can fill an ink cartridge for very little - as little as $1 - they do not supply remanufactured cartridges for such a low sum. I refilled an HP cartridge today for significantly less than it would have cost me to buy a new original unit, but the store will make a large profit from the transaction.

Cartridge World will send its petitions to the Australian government. In Europe franchisees won a victory when a similar petition was recently successful. This means that printers made in Europe cannot include technology to reject remanufactured cartridges.

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