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Why Printer Ink Cartridges Are So Expensive

2010-05-27

The use of ink is a necessity in all aspects of society. From business to home use, ink plays a major role in our daily lives; unfortunately, overall ink cartridge cost is high. Although the price has slightly decreased the past few years, it's still relatively expensive. Consequently, consumers have two options: pay the high prices of brand-name ink cartridges or purchase non-brand cheap ink cartridges and risk substandard printouts. With the price of other computer components dropping, this begs the question: why is ink still so expensive?

The cost of printers in the mid to late "90's was significantly high and ink was fairly inexpensive. After simple calculations, printing manufacturers realized that selling printers at cost or at a loss and significantly increasing the price of ink, they could make significantly higher profits. This method is referred to as the "give away the razor and sell the blades" business model. These same printing companies earn up to 60 percent gross margin on toners and ink cartridges. As a result, most consumers spend more than three times as much on ink as on the actual printer. Based on this selling method, printing companies make most of their profit on ink.

Unfortunately, this has become a sore spot for customers. Since most printing manufacturers follow this practice, there isn't much action consumers can take. Many analysts believe when purchasing a printer, most consumers are shortsighted; only interested in the cost of the printer at that moment and not considering the long-term price of ink.

Also, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 require manufacturers to state quantities on consumer packaging with the exception of lighters, safety pins and ink. As a result, consumers lack the information to make an enlightened decision. Printing vendors argue that the ink cartridge cost is high due to research and development, the technology behind the cartridges and the manufacturing costs. For instance, many printing companies have implanted a microchip into ink cartridges authenticating that the cartridge is being used in that company's printer. If not, it will shut down and be unusable.

According to the vendors, printing cartridges aren't just ink thrown into a bottle that goes into a printer. The research and development, technology and manufacturing behind these products are sophisticated and thus costly. While a portion of this may be true, the overall cost to produce an ink cartridge is around $3. Most companies then sell this to consumers for approximately $35 for a profit of $32. Hopefully in the future, a regulatory body will recognize this unfair practice and create a better balance. Until then, we must submit to the manufacturers pricing policies or choose cheap ink cartridges with potentially inferior ink.

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