How inexpensive clone supplies make printing more expensive

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Customers and partners alike can be taken in by the lower up-front cost of clone ink and toner cartridges for HP printers. But higher long-term costs and lower print productivity can leave users in the red.

Your customers rely on HP printers to meet their print needs. However, as many businesses look for ways to reduce costs, they may be tempted to save some up-front dollars by buying third-party supplies for their printers. Alternatively, competitive pressure may induce you to go with clone supplies to offer a lower-priced service package.

Whatever factors may lead you or your customers towards clones, a more in-depth look at the long-term costs of clone supplies provides a cautionary tale. Clone supplies may be less expensive in terms of initial acquisition but cost more over the lifetime of a printer quickly turning that “less expensive” narrative on its head.

From that perspective, choosing clone cartridges over HP Original supplies can prove a costly decision for your customers, for you, and for the environment.

The Cost To Your Customers

Once you look at print from a total cost of ownership standpoint, the benefit for clones quickly goes away. While HP Original toner cartridges performed flawlessly in testing by SpencerLab, 98 per cent of clone cartridges showed reliability problems including being dead on arrival right out of the box. 

The research company notes “several Non-HP cartridges had leaked in their packaging prior to testing, and other non-HP cartridges were severely damaged; all of these cartridges could not be installed for testing.” For those that arrived usable, the performance of clone cartridges also proved to be a challenge, with the majority of those tested coming up short of expectations. 

On average, HP Original supplies produced 61 per cent more pages per cartridge when compared to clone supplies. SpencerLab found that only three per cent of pages printed with clone supplies met their top-quality requirements, meaning they would be of appropriate quality for use outside the company. More than a third of those pages produced by clone cartridges were rated unusable. HP supplies, by comparison, delivered External Use Print Quality samples 99.9 per cent of the time.

This reduction in print productivity brings with it costs that not only eat into the original purchase cost-benefit of clone supplies, but put clone purchasers into the red. The overall long-term total cost of ownership for like printers with like workloads are 10 per cent more when those printers are running clone supplies.

Those same problems that impact print quality can also harm the printers themselves. Photizo Group research finds that using non-HP toner cartridges can increase the chances of a customer’s printer suffering damage by 50 per cent, and increase printer downtime by 20 per cent, further adding to the cost for “inexpensive” third-party supplies. 1 

The Cost To You

For any solution provider offering any variety of managed services, managing the costs of customer service is among the most important priorities to maximize profitability. Reducing the number of “truck rolls” or service calls is key to lowering costs.

So just as is the case for your customers, going with clone supplies may mean that you’re either able to sell at a lower price or realize higher profits. However, that victory may be short-sighted at best and pyrrhic at worst.

Genesis Technologies is one solution provider that has learned that providing only HP Original supplies can be a boon to the bottom line. The Chicago-based managed print service provider focuses on reducing print costs for its customers and simplifying their print environments.

Managed print is a competitive environment, and like many of its peers, Genesis found itself using clone toner to reach the price point required to close the deal. 

Still, for Genesis President and CEO Michael Kahn, it was a hollow way to win a deal. “We’re selling a lot of workhorse MFPs. I don’t want to sell someone a $15,000 MFP and then run into issues with a cartridge,” says Kahn. “It’s like putting cheap gas in a $100,000 sports car.”

So when HP approached Genesis with a solution the company jumped at the opportunity and quickly started to see the benefits including a 37 per cent reduction in service calls. With the switch to HP Original supplies came better consistency when it came to the lifetime of supplies, a key ingredient to providing services like predictive replenishment. 

Printers lasting longer between replenishments has meant not only reduced service calls for Genesis, but happier customers with fewer disruptions while waiting for prematurely empty clone supplies to be replaced. That has increased customer satisfaction while allowing Genesis to retain its required levels of profitability.

“Original HP toner is better business,” Kahn states. “There is no sacrifice on profit and the customer enjoys a better service.”

The Cost to Our Planet

So far, we’ve established that in the long run using clone supplies can prove to be a costly decision in the long term both for end-user customers and the solution provider serving them. However, as sustainability becomes more and more a “must-have” line item, strategy, and differentiator for companies around the world, we must look at another dimension where the clones fall short, the environmental impact of printing.

As a result of the flaws with clone cartridges previously mentioned, clone supply users print more wasted pages, purchase more consumables, and their printers work harder than they have to or break down prematurely. Clone supply users print on average 29 per cent more pages to get the same quality results as those using HP original supplies, according to research by Four Elements Consulting. That same research finds that means that clone supplies can bring with them a 55 per cent larger carbon footprint, owing to the use of 40 per cent more energy and 54 per cent more fossil fuels by clones.

Any discussion of the sustainability of printing supplies must also consider the end of life for these consumable products. And with HP original ink and toner, your customers can know that they’re doing all they can to reduce waste from their investment in printing, both during the life of supplies and after those supplies eventually need to be replaced. Through the HP Planet Partners program, the company avoids landfill altogether by taking back user cartridges, breaking them down into raw materials, and reusing those materials to make new HP cartridges and other everyday products. 

Through this program, HP has to date manufactured more than three billion ink and toner cartridges from recycled materials, including 784 million used HP cartridges and four billion plastic bottles. These comprehensive recycling efforts have resulted in more than 218 million pounds of waste diverted from landfill since 2000.

As your customers’ trusted advisor, you’re in an important position in helping them make the right decisions when it comes to print. When a customer presses for lower up-front costs by using third-party supplies, make sure they know the facts on what they’re buying over the long term, and help them make the right choice for their business, for your business, and the planet Earth.

This is one case where “you get what you pay for” rings true and brings with it the benefit of being less expensive and more productive in the long term. That’s a big part of the recipe for satisfied print customers.

1 2017 Photizo Group study in NA, commissioned by HP. Results based on 1002 HP monochrome and 1000 HP color LaserJet users who have used both Original HP and non-HP toner cartridges, of whom 417 (mono) and 532 (color) experienced problems with non-HP cartridges. See