Many probably see the world today as being predominantly digital but the unfortunate fact is that printed documents still occupy a large, not to mention critical, part of the world. Despite that dependence on printers, these devices have never really become the convenient and seamless experiences their manufacturers advertise them to be. Some of these printer makers have tried to adopt modern business trends without really adopting modern mindsets. HP, for example, is starting a new “printer as a service” program that requires a subscription fee or your printer stops working.
This sudden and unexpected change is actually based on a slightly different kind of subscription service HP introduced quite a long time ago. You still pay a monthly fee but that is for the ink that it delivers to you. That amount of ink is based on how many pages you think you regularly print each month, with the actual numbers reported by the printer to HP servers to charge you for any extras.
According to author and electronics rights advocate Cory Doctorow, HP Instant Ink subscribers received an email last week that pretty much put an end to its “print free for life” scheme. Instead of the monthly fee, which starts at $0.99, being put towards ink replenishment, you will be paying for the ability to print anything at all. In short, no payment, no printing, regardless of your ink levels.
HP hasn’t yet updated its support pages for Instant Ink but the email indicates the change will be implemented on December 26 this year. That monthly fee determines how many pages you’re allowed to print each month, again regardless of ink levels, with additional charges per extra 10 pages. This will most likely apply to all Instant Ink printers that consumers bought based on the expectation of the old service.
While we today are used to subscription services, the idea that you have to pay a monthly fee to even use an expensive product you already bought is still both alien and unsettling. HP will most likely argue that it has always reserved the right to change the terms of its Instant Ink service as it sees fit, which is equally unnerving. Then again, this isn’t the first time HP pulled such questionable stunts and it might see itself on the receiving end of a class-action lawsuit yet again.