Hewlett Packard was forced to admit it produced faulty inkjet cartridges six months after it first spotted the problem at its manufacturing plant.
The problem first surfaced in April this year, but it was only last week that HP admitted to it.
With up to 10 per cent of certain batches found to be defective, the manufacturer has been forced to tell resellers to offer free replacements of defective cartridges.
The cartridges affected were designed for HP's range of Deskjet, Designjet, Deskwriter and Officejet printers and its fax products. Some have been poor quality and some have not worked at all.
The US has been worst hit by the problem. A special phoneline has been set up to deal with complaints. HP admitted that at least one batch of faulty cartridges has arrived in the UK and it could not guarantee the problem will not worsen.
Phil Murphy, UK general manager at rival Kyocera, said: 'I don't understand why anyone buys inkjet printers anymore, the ownership costs are very high compared with a low-end laser printer. If the cartridges aren't working that just accentuates the problem.'
A UK representative for Hewlett Packard said: 'I'm not sure exactly how many cartridges were involved. Anyone with a faulty cartridge will be able to exchange it without question. This isn't a problem we're too concerned with.'
Kevin Spinks, UK marketing director of Lexmark, said: 'HP had a quality control problem last year and now it would appear to be back. If the problem is in the US it will almost certainly surface here too.'
Murphy added: 'Of course, the way the market is at the moment, it will probably think inkjet cartridges aren't supposed to work if HP has started making ones that don't.'
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