A California man filed suit against printer manufacturer HP and
office-supply retailer Staples Inc. in federal court on Monday,
alleging the two companies broke antitrust law in a price-fixing
collaboration on ink cartridge sales.
Ranjit Bedi of Pacific Palisades, California accused HP of
Staples Inc. in 2006 with at least $100 million in “market
development funds” and incentives, in exchange for an agreement to
stop selling third-party HP-compatible ink cartridges. According to
the lawsuit, Staples then used HP’s exclusivity to raise prices on
the HP cartridges it offered.
Staples is the largest retailer of aftermarket ink in the United
States, with profits from HP-compatible ink sales exceeding $300
million in 2006. Of that total, $75 million came from the sale of
third party ink.
Bedi called the agreement a “naked restraint on trade” that
prevented customers from purchasing “lower-priced and/or
higher-quality” HP-compatible cartridges from third parties, which
he claims disappeared off of Staples’ shelves around December 2006.
Staples and HP are supposed to be competitors in ink sales, reads the
complaint, and such an agreement reflects a “conspiracy to stop
The suit claims that the HP-Staples agreement violates the Sherman
Act and the Clayton Act, which prohibits anticompetitive behavior. It
seeks unspecified damages as well as an injunction that terminates
the agreement and restores third-party ink cartridges to Staples’
At the time of this writing, the Staples-HP agreement appears to
still be in effect. Staples’ Ink and Toner website does
not list Staples-branded HP-compatible ink, and searches for
specific HP models yields only HP-branded ink. While the lawsuit only
applies itself to inkjet cartridges, toner appears to be affected as
well as searches for common HP Laserjet printers yield similar
Printer companies are notorious for protecting their interests
when it comes to ink cartridges. Epson sued third-party inkjet
cartridge manufacturers in early
2006 and won an preliminary ITC ruling against 24 third-party
quote: which gets about 100,000 prints
quote: I own an HP printer, the price for HP ink is ridiculous. Many times you can buy a new printer for the price of replacing the cartridges! For me to get HP Black and Color cartridges, it's ~$62.00.
quote: Problem with that is that it's very hard for people to justify the initial outlay for a laser even if is cheaper to run
quote: most people are scared to do anything more than simply change a toner or a cartridge. Ask them to change a roller or a fuser and from my experience most users will just freak out.