UK consumers will have to wait two more years before they can accurately compare the costs of inkjet cartridges in order to get the best deal.
In December 2002 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said that major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Lexmark, Canon, Epson and HP, needed to come up with a common standard test for inkjet printer cartridges within a year.
But this has now been put back until December 2005, as the OEMs have been given more time to work with trade organisation Intellect to develop a test that will meet ISO standards.
Epson told vnunet.com: "All OEMs are in full agreement with all the actions and plans to date. The request for an industry standard is welcomed by the printing industry."
The OFT announced that it is pleased with current progress. "The OEMs are co-operating towards the standard and good progress is being made," said a spokesman.
In its 2002 report, the OFT stated that the inkjet cartridge market was controlled by a small number of companies.
It criticised the major OEMs for controlling the prices of these consumables, and for raising significant barriers to third-party manufacturers which offer cheaper products, by using smart chips or telling customers that this would invalidate their warranties.
It added that it is hard to compare cartridges because there is no standard test to determine the number of pages a cartridge should print, or to compare OEM and third-party cartridges, making price comparisons difficult to conduct.
However, lawyers have indicated that this is unfair unless it can be proved that the ink caused the problem.
But news of the delay was met with dismay by companies which sell refilled cartridges.
Keith Moss, chairman of the UK Cartridge Recyclers Association, said: "If they haven't been able to develop a standard test for monochrome laser printers during the past four years, how will they develop one for colour printers?
"In order to proceed to ISO they need to put the test through a national organisation, such as the British Standards Institute, first.
"We have asked them which national organisation they have approached but have had no response from the OEMs."
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