A suit has been filed in US federal courts claiming that Hewlett-Packard and office superstore Staples broke antitrust law. The suit claims that HP paid Staples more than $100 million to carry only HP ink cartridges in its stores, and to avoid stocking lower-cost third-party refills. The plaintiff is asking that it be made a class-action suit on behalf of all printer owners.
Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, it does put a focus on ink prices, a major part of the income of HP and rivals like Epson and Lexmark. It has been estimated that the real cost of ink refills can be as high as $8,000 a gallon. At those prices, there’s lots of room for third-party underselling. The result has been an all-out war, where the major printer developers have tried to limit the sales of unauthorized sellers. This lawsuit, whatever happens to it, is just another skirmish in the long war.