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The Hidden Hassles of HP's Printer Rental Prison

As the owner of Castle Ink, it's quite honestly painful for me to see HP continue to squeeze consumers, this time launching a new subscription service that essentially rents out printers to consumers, pairing the hardware with a monthly quota of printed pages and a regular supply of ink. They pitch it as a streamlined solution for families and small businesses to handle their printing needs; but this convenience comes with major strings attached: ongoing monitoring and a commitment that spans years.

The service tiers range from a basic $6.99 per month, providing an HP Envy printer (the 6020e model as of now) with a 20-page print limit, to a premium $35.99 monthly plan that offers an HP OfficeJet Pro with a 700-page quota. HP promises ink replenishment when levels run low and around-the-clock support—albeit, their support stops short of including repairs or replacements. And, unsurprisingly, any damage or issues resulting from non-HP products or exceeding your plan's usage aren't covered.

HP's oversight extends deeply into the usage of these rented printers. Subscribers are required to maintain an internet connection to their devices, allowing HP to monitor ink levels, page counts, and even the types of documents being printed. This continuous surveillance also serves to deter any use of non-HP ink by threatening service disruption while still charging the monthly fee.

Moreover, HP's All-In-Plan Privacy Policy openly states they might share user data with advertising partners, a practice users can opt out of, but it remains a concern for privacy advocates.

Committing to HP's plan locks you in for two years, with hefty cancellation fees looming over those who decide to opt-out early. This long-term commitment, coupled with a model that could end up costing more than outright owning a printer, mirrors the lock-in strategies seen in other subscription-based industries.

Monitoring monthly prints becomes a chore under this system, a far cry from the ownership experience where such vigilance is unnecessary. And while HP restricts the use of their provided ink to the subscription service, they also mandate an HP Service account and email, further encroaching on user autonomy.

The lure of hassle-free printing and the avoidance of tech troubles is appealing, yet the root causes of these printer-related headaches often stem from the manufacturers themselves. HP's introduction of firmware updates that block third-party ink is a prime example of practices that frustrate users far more than the cost of printer ownership.

In essence, while HP sells its subscription as a remedy to the perennial pains of printer ownership, I say the solution is to steer clear of HP printers altogether.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile