HP has apologized to its customers after a software update made some printers stop working with unofficial ink cartridges made by other manufacturers.
The company said it rolled out the change to protect customers from counterfeit cartridges, but campaigners have accused HP of interfering with consumer choice.
HP’s software update meant some users saw ink cartridges they had used for months suddenly stop functioning, leaving them with little choice but to spend more money on HP products.
Printer ink is one of the company’s most lucrative products, and it has long insisted that cartridges from third-party rivals are of an inferior quality.
In a statement, HP said it would reverse the software update within two weeks, adding: “We should have done a better job of communicating about the authentication procedure to customers, and we apologize.
“Although only a small number of customers have been affected, one customer who has a poor experience is too many.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been campaigning for HP to make amends for its “self-destructing printers”, has warned the company’s actions could cause long-term damage.
In a letter to HP’s chief executive Don Wiesler, the EFF wrote: “Earlier proof-of-concept malicious software targeted to your products screened print jobs for Social Security Numbers and credit card details and sent them to attackers, or scanned customers’ networks and hijacked their connected computers.
“By giving tens of millions of your customers a reason to mistrust your updates, you’ve put them at risk of future infections that could compromise their business and home networks, their sensitive data, and the gadgets that share their network with the printers, from baby monitors to thermostats.”