Following the recent discovery of counterfeit Samsung toner cartridges in The Netherlands, the subject of counterfeit goods is back in the spotlight. With consumable costs significantly higher than they were a year ago and many businesses looking for ways to save money, the opportunities and potential rewards for counterfeit manufacturers are substantial. However, the risks of purchasing these counterfeit cartridges can also be substantial. Printware, as a responsible reseller and authorised channel partner, is committed to supplying legitimate, quality merchandise and keeping its customers informed of anything that may have an impact on their business. With this in mind, we take a look at the issue of counterfeit consumables, why they’re a problem and how to minimise the risks to your business.
What are counterfeit cartridges?
Counterfeit cartridges are refilled or imitation cartridges sold as though they are new and made to look as though they were produced by the printer manufacturer. There are many legitimate refilled and remanufactured cartridges on the market but their packaging will indicate that they are compatibles and not genuine originals. Counterfeit cartridges are supplied in packaging that is virtually identical to the manufacturer’s and designed to make the customer think that they are buying a new, branded product.
Why are they a problem?
Selling counterfeit products is, of course, illegal and helps to fund and support other illegal activities. Obviously, they impact financially on the manufacturers and the legitimate supply chain but what is the cost to you and your business?
The main risk to you as a consumer is the quality of the counterfeit cartridges; print quality is often poor, page yields are reduced and the product is more likely to fail completely. Furthermore, there is a risk that the counterfeit cartridges may cause damage to your printer that won’t be covered by the warranty.
When you purchase a legitimate compatible cartridge, any faults will be covered by the cartridge manufacturer’s own warranty and this can include repairs to hardware. Needless to say, there is no protection or support available if you purchase a counterfeit cartridge.
How can I spot a counterfeit cartridge?
It can be difficult to spot a counterfeit cartridge as the packaging is often virtually identical to the real thing and even experts need to look closely to spot the fakes. There are, however, some signs to look out for if you think you have bought or been offered a counterfeit cartridge.
Perhaps the easiest and most obvious thing to look for is the security seal or hologram; Oki and Xerox, for example, attach a hologram to the outer packaging of their toners and solid inks. Other manufacturers like HP and Samsung use a security seal which is damaged if the packaging has been opened; the HP security seal is placed on the tear strip of the toner cartridge box and its two halves “flip” between light and dark blue as the box is rotated. Some manufacturers, like Kyocera, place a hologram on the toner cartridge itself to make it easier to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit cartridges.
Other signs to look out for include any “non-standard”, damaged or previously opened packaging. Inside the box, there should be no damage to the cartridge, no ink or toner dust on the cartridge, no significant scratches or signs of previous use and all pull tabs should be intact. If a counterfeit cartridge is installed in a printer, the most obvious sign will be poor print quality and reliability.
By far the easiest way to avoid being caught out by counterfeit consumables is to purchase from an authorised reseller like Printware. As an authorised reseller, we receive full manufacturer support for all the products we sell and only purchase through an approved network of suppliers, who are also fully supported by the manufacturers. Buying from non-approved retailers and resellers increases the risk to you; even genuine products may not be supported by the manufacturer if they are purchased through these channels. Always be suspicious of consumables that are being sold at a significantly reduced price; if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.
So, what about these counterfeit Samsung cartridges?
During the last few weeks, Samsung discovered that counterfeit cartridges for the ML-1710 were in circulation in the European Union. The cartridges were found in the warehouse of a supplier, ACI Adam, in The Netherlands and may have been purchased by other suppliers or resellers. Samsung has taken steps to inform its channel partners and ensure that any remaining counterfeit cartridges are recovered. In this instance, the counterfeit goods do not seem to have reached the end users so customers here in the UK should have no need to be concerned. We have asked Samsung for an update on the situation and will pass on any further information as it becomes available.
What are the manufacturers doing to stop the counterfeiters?
Unsurprisingly, given the amount of money they invest in developing their products, the printer manufacturers dedicate a great deal of resources to stopping the distribution and sale of counterfeit ink and toner cartridges. In the last year alone, Samsung has seized $2 million worth of counterfeit toners worldwide. HP, working with law enforcement agencies, seized $795 million worth of counterfeit cartridges, or 15 million individual items, between 2005 and 2008.
As mentioned above, a great deal of effort is also invested in packaging design to make it more difficult for the counterfeiters to copy.
What should I do if I think I’ve purchased a counterfeit cartridge?
Your best course of action is to contact the manufacturer directly and provide them with as much information as possible, including details of the product, where and when it was purchased and who from, proof of purchase and any other relevant information.
Will I get my money back?
This is very much between you and the supplier who sold you the counterfeit cartridge; in some instances, the manufacturer may support your efforts to claim your money back from the supplier but they will not make any guarantees and they have no obligation to help you.
Although counterfeiting print cartridges is a global multi-million dollar business, you are extremely unlikely to fall victim if you follow a few simple rules:
- Always buy from an approved supplier – your chances of mistakenly purchasing counterfeit goods will be drastically reduced and, in the unlikely event that you do, you will have a much greater chance of getting your money back.
- Don’t be tempted by suspiciously cheap prices or offers that look too good to be true.
- Look out for damaged, opened or “non-standard” packaging. Security seals or holograms should be in place and undamaged.
- Inspect the cartridge for damage or any signs that it has been used previously – the cartridge should be sealed and all pull tabs should be in place.
- Poor print quality and reliability may be an indication that the cartridge is a counterfeit.
If you suspect that you have purchased a counterfeit cartridge, contact the manufacturer and provide them with as much information as you can.
On a final note, in over twenty years of trading, Printware, its parent company and supply network have never had a problem with counterfeit cartridges.
by Anthony Morgan