HP Circles Wagons In Response To LaserJet Printer Toner Shortage

For the past several months, HP has been grappling with a shortage of its HP-branded CE285A black replacement toner cartridge, which works with HP's monochrome LaserJet P1102W and LaserJet M1212 printers.

HP claims the shortage is due to the high level of demand for these products and says it's taking "immediate measures" to restore inventory.

"HP is driving supply improvement by working with factories to markedly increase supply [of the HP-branded CE285A cartridge] and is investing to significantly improve transit times for inbound receipts," an HP spokesperson said in an e-mail.

HP says both its retail and distribution channels are affected, but while the CE285A is out of stock at Newegg.com, it's currently available through Staples.com, Officedepot.com and Amazon for $67.99. HP didn't directly respond to a question about when distributors can expect to see CE285A back orders, saying only that it's "working quickly" to meet demand.

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Chris Barnes, vice president of research and solutions development at Gap Intelligence, a San Diego-based research firm that follows HP, believes that a continued CE285A shortage could be problematic for HP, since customers and partners are wondering why they can't obtain genuine-OEM replacement cartridges from the world's largest laser printer vendor.

"The CE285A is a very high volume SKU for LaserJet products that are being advertised a ton and are widely distributed through retail," Barnes said.

HP lists the LaserJet P1102W for $149.99 and the LaserJet M1212 for $199.99, but Staples.com currently sells them for $99.99 (after a $50 instant rebate) and $169.99 (after a $30 instant rebate) respectively.

Meanwhile, there's evidence to suggest that CE285A toner has been in short supply since at least September. Angry customers have been venting their spleens on HP's Home and Home Office Web Store pages, and one review, dated Sept. 30, described the frustration of trying to conduct business with CE285 replacements in such short supply.

"I think we can all understand how stock can run out on some of the hot deals HP offers much of the time. Meanwhile, I must search local merchants tomorrow, and hope I don't get caught by time-critical orders and insufficient toner with which to print them," said reviewer 'Connetent.'