Counterfeit Toner and Ink Supplies Continue to Harm Printer Industry

According to the Imaging Supplies Coalition (ISC), a non-profit trade association dedicated to preventing the illegal sale of counterfeit printer and copier supplies such as toner cartridges, the problem of counterfeit supplies is not going away any time soon.

Indeed, the ISC, which was established by OEMs that include HP Inc., Lexmark International, and Xerox over 20 years ago, states that the annual market for counterfeit printer supplies is a whopping $3.5 billion. In these days of lower office printing, a maturing industry, and fierce competitiveness, that’s a huge hit to the bottom lines of printer companies.

(Note that counterfeit supplies refer to supplies that are fraudulently labeled and marketed as being made and authorized by the original printer/copier maker. In contrast, newly built or remanufactured supplies aren’t labeled or marked to appear as if they are made or authorized by the original printer maker.)

In response, one company that’s routinely collaborated with law enforcement around the world to identify and stop counterfeit printer supplies – either toner or ink – is HP Inc. For instance, in April, HP publicly identified four companies selling counterfeits (see here).

According to HP’s Global Anti-Counterfeit Programme director Glenn Jones, counterfeits hurt both HP and users: “For companies like HP, counterfeits undermine decades of focused research and testing aimed at creating superior ink and toner, and reliable, high-quality cartridges for our customers. For users, fakes cause a significant increase in print failures, low page yield, poor print quality, leaks and clogs, in addition to voiding hardware warranties.”

In a recent Forbes article, Andy Binder, HP Inc.’s Vice President & General Manager of Office Supplies and Solutions, discussed counterfeit printer supplies. First, counterfeit supplies tend to be sold outside of the United States, especially in emerging economies, particularly in India and China, and aren’t purchased in well-established channels, but via small companies, either online or in physical marketplaces.

For users, the end result is typically very poor performance – ranging from very poor image quality, to toner spilling inside the printer, and voiding of the printer’s warranty. Counterfeits also tend to be manufactured in unregulated facilities, resulting in safety and health issues for workers. For printer OEMs, there’s a loss of revenue and a detrimental effect on workers who manufacture legitimate supplies.

More alarmingly, perhaps, HP’s Binder notes that counterfeit supplies aren’t tested for safetu, noting: “In testing that we’ve done, 100 percent of these products (counterfeits) fail things like indoor air quality tests, which are designed to protest consumers. We also find that they tend to not use plastics that are recycled and have a high concentration of non-standard components that are dangerous for the environment as well.”

According to Binder, last year, HP collaborated with law enforcement all around the world in over 500 raids, with law enforcement confiscating some 8 million counterfeits.

While HP and other companies use labels specially designed to prevent counterfeiting, one problem is that counterfeiters often re-use original supplies’ boxes.

Despite the efforts of HP, the Imaging Supplies Coalition, and law-enforcement around the world, counterfeiting printer supplies is not likely to go away any time soon, and will continue to have hurt the financial health of the office-imaging industry.

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