It turns out HP’s “free ink for life” plan wasn’t actually “for life.”
HP recently informed Instant Ink plan customers that after just three years, it was ending its “free ink for life” deal, according to Consumer Reports. It becomes not-so-free as of Friday.
What was this deal? The company remotely monitored printer buyers’ ink usage (creepy!), and sent a “free” cartridge when they were running low…with some caveats.
Printing (and ink) was not unlimited. Users were allowed to print 15 pages per month. Subscribers also had to have a credit card on file with HP. If you went over 15 pages, HP would charge you a dollar for 10 additional pages.
Oh, another fun component of the plan: Every five pages, HP would PRINT AN AD on your printer. Don’t worry, the ad wouldn’t count against your quota. Phew!
But now those halcyon days are gone. HP will charge participants in the program 99 cents per month for their 15 pages. Sure, nearly $12 a year doesn’t sound like a lot, but, again, they signed up for FREE ink for life.
There are tiers that cost between 99 cents to $24.99/month for more pages, based on your printing needs. One positive change to the plan is that you can roll over your unused pages up to a cap.
The bait-and-switch “free ink for life” deal is just the latest trick pulled by HP (and other printer companies) to make as much money as possible from their machines. Writer Cory Doctorow how HP has milked its customers dry with “security chips” in ink cartridges that stop your printer from working if you try to use (cheaper) ink from a third party.
Printer makers face the same challenge as every other hardware company: How to get people to keep spending money once they’ve made the initial investment. The winning formula is subscriptions, which is why you see tiered pricing plans for everything from fitness classes on Peloton to cloud storage from Apple. So, of course, Big Printer is in on the action.