We’ve always been suspicious of printer toner/ink subscriptions and there are at least three traps in these heavily marketed offers.
What is a printer ink subscription?
Ink subscription plans, like HP’s Instant Ink, work with the customer paying a monthly fee for ink/toner to be supplied as required. The internet connected printer sends a message when ink is running low and they send out a new supply.
In theory, the new ink arrives before the printer runs out. As you might imagine, there are traps.
The plans make unwarranted assumptions about how and when customers use their printers.
You can be sure that the printer companies don’t sell ink/toner subscriptions to help customers. They were created and heavily promoted because they’re more profitable for the company.
Page limit on subscriptions
The monthly fee has a limit on the number of pages you can print. Here’s the current pricing for HP Instant Ink with their headline “99 cents a month” plan supporting a mere 10 pages.
The plans assume that printer use is fairly consistent with roughly the same number of pages printed each month. Many people or families might go through times with little printed then a blizzard of paperwork another time.
Can subscription keep up with unexpected demand?
If there’s an unusually high number of pages printed (but still within the monthly page limit), the ink replacement may not arrive in time to keep up with demand. Meaning you have to go out a buy ink/toner over and above what you paid for the monthly plan.
Also, the plans assume an average amount of ink used per page. Some pages, especially large full color pages use a lot more than the usual amount of ink.
Watch the fine print
As usual, the fine print has traps like this one highlighted by The Guardian in the UK.
If you cancel your HP Instant Ink plan the ink cartridges you already have will stop working!
“Customers can adjust their plan or cancel whenever they like. Cartridges delivered as part of an Instant Ink subscription will only work while a printer is enrolled in the HP Instant Ink service. If the subscription has been cancelled, at the end of the billing cycle the cartridges will stop working …”
To continue using the printer, buy standard non-subscription cartridges or perhaps not even that will work. Customers who cancel a HP+ plan discover their printer won’t work unless they buy new and original HP ink/toner — not even refilled HP cartidges will do