HP Printers Accused Of Loan Shark Shakedown Of Owners With Sketchy Ink Subscriptions

hero hp officejet pro 8025e
When you buy a new HP inkjet printer, the setup software strongly encourages you to sign up for the company's Instant Ink service. It sounds like a good deal on the face of it—every time you print a certain number of pages, HP will send you a fresh ink cartridge without you having to go buy one yourself.

The reality is not quite so sweet, as Atlantic writer Charlie Warzel has discovered first-hand. You see, if you stop subscribing to Instant Ink, none of the cartridges you have laying around will actually work in your printer. The device has to phone home to verify your Instant Ink subscription, and if it's not active, you can't use those cartridges.

instant ink cartridges
Instant Ink cartridges can't be used without an active subscription.

It will probably not be a surprise to regular HotHardware readers that inkjet printers present a bad value for most customers. If you're not doing regular prints of detailed color documents or photographs, you would probably be better-served by a laser printer. Still, inkjets are attractive for their relatively low entry price and overall high print quality.

That doesn't excuse sketchy subscription programs like Instant Ink, though. Warzel is hardly the only person with complaints about HP's subscription service; you can trawl Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to gather dozens upon dozens of reports from frustrated people who simply want a working printer without having to pay every month.

google suggestions hp printers
Very helpful Google suggestions on a search for "HP printers."

You can, of course, still do things the old-fashioned way: buy a printer, and then manually select ink cartridges for it. However, the retail price of HP's ink cartridges is often much higher than what you'll pay on the Instant Ink program—to the point that you will quickly have spent more on ink than you did on the printer.

There's no shortage of cautionary tales regarding the dangers of software and hardware "as a service." The gaming community is rife with these stories; tales of games being shut down and players losing their data permanently, or of online services being ended, ending the life of otherwise perfectly-playable games. Stories like Warzel's remind us that this kind of problem is real, and not just limited to gaming, or even software.