‘My Printer Is Extorting Me’, Complains Subscriber to HP’s ‘Instant Ink’ Program
I discovered an error message on my computer indicating that my HP OfficeJet Pro had been remotely disabled by the company. When I logged on to HP’s website, I learned why: The credit card I had used to sign up for HP’s Instant Ink cartridge-refill program had expired, and the company had effectively bricked my device in response….
Instant Ink is a monthly subscription program that purports to monitor one’s printer usage and ink levels and automatically send new cartridges when they run low. The name is misleading, because the monthly fee is not for the ink itself but for the number of pages printed. (The recommended household plan is $5.99 a month for 100 pages). Like others, I signed up in haste during the printer-setup process, only slightly aware of what I was purchasing. Getting ink delivered when I need it sounded convenient enough to me….
The monthly fee is incurred whether you print or not, and the ink cartridges occupy some liminal ownership space. You possess them, but you are, in essence, renting both them and your machine while you’re enrolled in the program…. Here was a piece of technology that I had paid more than $200 for, stocked with full ink cartridges. My printer, gently used, was sitting on my desk in perfect working order but rendered useless by Hewlett-Packard, a tech corporation with a $28 billion market cap at the time of writing, because I had failed to make a monthly payment for a service intended to deliver new printer cartridges that I did not yet need….
There are tales of woe across HP’s customer-support site, in Reddit threads, and on Twitter. A pending class-action lawsuit in California alleges that the Instant Ink program has “significant catches” and does not deliver new cartridges on time or allow those enrolled to use cartridges purchased outside the subscription service, rendering the consumer frequently unable to print. Parker Truax, a spokesperson for HP, told me, “Instant Ink cartridges will continue working until the end of the current billing cycle in which [a customer cancels]. To continue printing after they discontinue their Instant Ink subscription and their billing cycle ends, they can purchase and use HP original Standard or XL cartridges.”
“Nobody told me that if I canceled, then all those cartridges would stop working,” complains another owner of an HP printer cited in the article. “I guess this is our future, where your printer ink spies on you.”
But the article ultimately concludes that the printer’s shakedown is “just one example of how digital subscriptions have permeated physical tech so thoroughly that they are blurring the lines of ownership. Even if I paid for it, can I really say that I own my printer if HP can flip a switch and make it inert?”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.