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Kodak consumables – reasonably priced?

Issue #0912/1 – Kodak began its venture into the consumer inkjet printer market selling only directly. Once upon a time there was nowhere else to buy the hardware and the supplies. Now, these printers and cartridges are no more difficult to find than any other brand – testament to the early success that Kodak has achieved since launching two years ago. As a follow-up to the previous article (), in this article we look at the pricing of the supplies and discover some disturbing variations.

With Kodak claiming an installed base of one million units after two years, and targeting a further million by the end of this year, it is hard to play down the company’s entry into the market and dismiss the impact its presence could have. Indeed, the newcomer is seen to be so significant that third party supplies are no more difficult to find than original OEM supplies (except in Germany).

However, it would seem, right now, that one has to go to the internet to find the third party units – no doubt this will soon change. This means, though, that even if the cost of a third party cartridge is lower than an original (which is not always the case!), it may not be lower once the post and packing charges are included if you are able to pick up an original while out in the high street during your lunch break!

In the UK, there are certainly four high-street or retail park outlets that are stocking the cartridges, including Argos (the catalogue store), Comet, Curry’s and PC World. In most instances, the black cartridges are for sale at the Kodak price but Argos knocks a massive (?!) 20 pence off the cost of each cartridge, while Comet sells the colour cartridge for a genuinely significant £2 less than the Kodak price.

If we look at the wider picture for each of the cartridges, we find that it is possible to find the black cartridge priced at anything up to 20% lower than Kodak – but, with the need to add post and packing to the price, this is not the total cost. There are also those outlets, of course, that are looking to make a little more profit and it is here that we meet some disturbing findings.

Kodak cartridge prices – Black US UK Germany
Kodak $9.99 £6.99 €9.99
Compatible – Lowest $7.84 £5.57 €9.09
Compatible – Median $9.93 £6.46 €10.20
Compatible – Highest $14.41 £30.23 €15.64

Note: All prices quoted for UK and Germany include tax, prices in the US exclude tax

Kodak US priceKodak price, black cartridge

Not content with selling the cartridges at the recommended, or Kodak, price, there are resellers that pile on the money to an unreasonable extent. With a maximum price found in the US that is 44% above the Kodak price, and an even higher 57% above Kodak in Germany, some resellers are clearly out to take advantage of users who either don’t know any better or are desperate to replenish ink at whatever cost. This scenario usually only occurs when a ‘convenience’ store is involved – for instance, at a 24/7 mini-mart or a stall at a railway station (as with the cost of mars bars, see ). But, in these instances that does not appear to be the case.

Kodak US high priceDeceptive US high price – Kodak black cartridge
However, this highest price in the US is one of those incidents where the reseller is being totally deceptive. The reseller announces, “Our price $14.41, MRSP $28.828, You Save 50%”. I think not! Kodak’s web site quite clearly advertises the price at $9.99 and any claim to the contrary is untruthful.
Almost worse than this, we found one outlet in the UK that is actually selling the black cartridge at an unprecedented £30!! At £23.24 (332%) ABOVE the Kodak price of £6.99, this is totally outrageous and shocking. The only factor in favour of this reseller is that there was no deceptive claim about the MRSP.

More realistically though, the median price in two of the three countries polled, US and UK, is at least below the Kodak price – by 8% in the UK but by only 6 cents in the US. Only Germany shows a median price higher than Kodak, at 2%. However, by the time post and packing has been added, the customer can expect to be paying as much as 50% more by buying online than by buying at a local high street or retail park outlet.

Looking at third party, compatible cartridges, we find several brands available, the most prominent of which are Inkrite in the UK and G&G in the US.

Compatible cartridge prices – Black US UK Germany
Kodak $9.99 £6.99 €9.99
Compatible – Lowest $3.50; £3.45 n/a
Compatible – Median $7.99 £4.98 €6.90
Compatible – Highest $8.99 £24.47 n/a

Note: Compatible cartridges are generally not available in Germany – price included is the only incidence found

On the whole, we find that prices of 3rd party compatibles are considerably lower than those for the Kodak branded cartridges. However, the same UK company mentioned above is selling an Inkrite compatible cartridge for £24.47 – an absurd 250% above the cost of an original cartridge from Kodak.

Kodak Black Ink Cartridge Pricing

Kodak vs Street vs 3rd Party

Moving on to the colour cartridge, we find some variations in the spread of pricing in the US and UK, between the Kodak price and street pricing, while pricing in Germany remains largely consistent with the black cartridge.

First of all, median street pricing on the colour cartridge in the US is rather lower than we saw with the black cartridge. In contrast, UK median street pricing is some 10% higher than the Kodak price whereas it had been nearly 8% lower on the black cartridge.

Where 3rd party cartridges are concerned, pricing on the colour cartridge in the UK tends to offer slightly less of a price advantage to the user than when purchasing a compatible black cartridge, while in the US the differential is again wider.

Kodak Colour Ink Cartridge Pricing

Kodak vs Street vs 3rd Party

Kodak cartridge prices – Colour US UK Germany
Kodak $14.99 £9.99 €14.99
Compatible – Lowest $7.95 £8.23 €13.10
Compatible – Median $13.35 £10.98 €14.90
Compatible – Highest $19.99 £28.15 €22.88

Note that the same UK outlet is selling Kodak original colour cartridges at around three times the Kodak price and that well over half of the outlets are selling the original cartridges at prices higher than Kodak.

We have consistently seen UK consumers and business being disadvantaged on pricing relative to Europe or the US and here it is again. While US buyers are able to acquire product at a much lower price than product from the OEM manufacturer, in the UK there is the clearly a probability that customers will be asked to pay more.

Compatible cartridge prices – Colour US UK Germany
Kodak $14.99 £9.99 €14.99
Compatible – Lowest $5.97 £4.97 n/a
Compatible – Median $9.88 £7.99 €7.90
Compatible – Highest $14.99 £10.99 n/a

We can see quite clearly then, that there are two reasons why consumers pay too much for ink.

Firstly, manufacturers are claiming their profit against ink while making a loss on the hardware. This is the subject of Kodak’s marketing campaign, (), and is the most visible or obvious target for the complaint about expensive ink.

However, secondly, many resellers are overcharging customers or, in some instances, blatantly deceiving them. This can found with inks from all manufacturers and is not a Kodak-specific problem.

Printer users are, therefore, able to minimise printing costs by shopping from the right outlet regardless of which printer they have. It may well involve taking a forward-looking view of printing requirements so that cartridges can be bought either when local stores are being visited for other reasons, or when other products are being bought online anyway, thus avoiding specifically loading either fuel or P&P costs on top of the actual cartridge price.

There is a strong case for the business model adopted by printer manufacturers to be changed so that ink prices are reduced – but, this will mean paying more for the hardware in the first place and buyers are unlikely to be prepared to accept the price rises that would occur.

If consumers wish to criticise printer manufacturers for high ink prices, I would suggest that they start with the resellers and boycott any reseller that sells product above the price published, or sold, by the original printer manufacturer. After all, the Kodak price might be reasonable but some of the resale prices clearly are not.

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