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Buying Ink or Toner Printer Cartridges on the Internet

11/25/2010 by Alex Paransky

Thinking about purchasing your ink or toner cartridges from an internet site?  Here are some things to consider.

Cheap prices, poor quality products, no service
The name of the game on internet ink web sites is cheap.  The prices are cheap, quality of the product is poor and service is mostly non-existent.  Many internet companies run multiple web sites at the same time.  Some companies have as many as a dozen different sites.  When one of those websites gets a bad reputation due to bad quality of their products or poor customer service, they shut it down and open 3 more.  These websites all appear to be different, but are really the same company.  These are the same companies that keep filling your mail box with spam e-mail advertising printer cartridges at over 90% off. 

Sketchy warranty details
Warranty details are sketchy at best.  Some sites offer “100% satisfaction”, however, you have to read the fine print.  Some only warrant their products for 15 to 30 days after the purchase date on your invoice/receipt.  This means that you warranty starts even before you receive your products.  Other companies offer longer warranties but only if you return your cartridge with not less than 70% full.  If, for example, your laser cartridge develops a defect after you have only used it for ½ of its rated life, you are out of luck. Some sites offer special deal on a bundle of cartridges such as 5 black and 2 color cartridges.  Again, keep in mind that the "100% satisfaction" warranty can run out before you even get to the next cartridge.

Beware of two times non-refundable shipping charges 
Many websites state that shipping charges are not refundable.  When giving you the refund for the cartridge you purchased their shipping charges are subtracted from the refund.  Also, online companies do not typically pay for you to return the cartridge to them, so you are out of 2xshipping charges when returning a cartridge.  So, if you purchased a $10 ink cartridge which did not work and you wish to return it for a refund, the final refund price may be $4.95 less, so you are only getting back $5.05 and it will also cost you about $5 to send the cartridge back to the company for refund.  At the end, your refund may only wind up being 5 cents.  Most people don’t bother returning defective cartridges and that’s how these companies are able to make money.

Old or expired products 
Be aware of multi cartridge deals which some companies offer.  A remanufactured ink cartridge should be used within 6 months after being refilled.  How old is the cartridge that you are receiving?  How long has it been waiting after it was refilled:  on the shelf, on the ship, on the train, on the truck, on the shelf again?  This is the reason why refilled cartridges purchased on the internet have such a high failure rate.  

Deceptive price advertisements
While these sites often advertise savings of up to 90% a review of their prices reveals that most of their prices are quite high and are not even close to the 90% discount being advertised.

Deceptive product advertisements
Even when the product you are purchasing is advertised as an original new cartridge what you get may not be what you think you bought.  Frequently, the online image or picture of the product does not match the actual product that you receive.  That is, if you are lucky enough to get anything at all.

Non-Existent refunds or elusive RMA policy
Even if you know that the product you have received is defective, many companies will try to find ways to avoid giving you a refund.  If you send your cartridges using regular mail without tracking they may insist that they have never received your cartridges back.  Even when they have received the product back it may take 30 to 60 days and countless e-mails to the company to get your refund posted to your account.  In other cases, companies require that you first obtain an RMA number from them by sending them an e-mail.  Many companies, simply do not reply to their e-mails.  No RMA means you cannot get your money back or the cartridge exchanged.

Existing complaints and law suits
Consumer’s outcry against deceptive practices of many internet web sites selling ink has resulted in a number of lawsuits.  Here is a link to one such complaint http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/08/ebabylon.shtm. In the complaint it is alleged that an internet operator with over 12 web sites refused to honor the refund policy, engaged in deceptive advertising and did not properly disclose the condition of the ink cartridges to the consumer.

Recommended method for reviewing an internet reseller
Finally, skip their testimonials pages and visit Reseller Ratings at http://www.resellerratings.com. This site allows customers to post comments positive or negative regarding internet commerce web sites.  Check the ratings and the comments that other customers have left.  Look at their experiences and determine if you are willing to go through what they have gone through for a printer cartridge.   Remember, that many operators create new websites so if you do not find any reviews on reseller ratings be careful.  Another resource to visit is the national Better Business Bureau (BBB) at http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/ and search for the business there.  BBB rates many companies as well as allowing end-users to post their reviews as well.  Another method is to search using Google for the name of the company and see if you can find any reviews this way.  Finally, check the phone number or address of the company in the About Us or Contact Us page and search Google for this information.  Many websites which are operated by the same company will have the same contact information.  When you find other sites with the same physical address or phone number, research them in Reseller Ratings and make your own conclusions.

Here are some comments regarding other's experiences with popular online web sites
Here are some comments from customers like you regarding the issues they had with cheap online ink sale sites http://www.techsupportalert.com/cheap_inket_cartridges.htm. Read the comments after the article that some people left regarding their experiences in terms of customer service, refunds, warranty support and other issues.  

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