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HP Plus is an expensive way to stop your HP printer working

It’s one thing for a printer maker to add expensive and limited ink ‘subscriptions’ but HP have gone way too far by permanently disabling a printer if the customer stops the monthly plan. And there’s excessive monitoring of how you use your printer.

HP+ Smart Printing System (aka HP Plus or just HP +) seems like a good deal (if you like the notion of a ‘subscription’ for ink/toner supply) and there’s plenty of inducements to sign up.

DON’T do it! 
There’s a huge trap lurking in the fine print.

This is the part that should stop anyone signing up for HP+, with the big trap in our bold type.

“Requires Internet connection, HP account, and use of Original HP ink for the life of the printer

No HP+ plan – no printer

Once you sign up for HP+ the printer will ONLY work with HP ink cartridges for the rest of the printers working life. 

If you cancel HP+ subscription, the printer stops working completely.  You have to buy only new, original HP ink/toner separately.

Even the subscription ink that you have already won’t work.  As soon as HP+ is cancelled, the printer stops.

Third-party and even refilled HP cartridges won’t work.  Makers of these products have tried and failed, so far, to bypass the new ‘Dynamic Security’ added by HP over the last few months.

Thanks to Sean Hollister at The Verge for his good work exploring the traps in HP+

No Internet – no HP printing

HP requires the printer to be connected to the Internet, if not, the printer can stop working.

On the HP+ subscription plan, the printer won’t print unless there’s an Internet connection (presumably to check that the HP+ plan is current).  It’s not clear if that applies to every print job or the printer checks, say, once a day.  However it works, users need to be wary if they are offline for any length of time.

From HP’s point of view, the Internet connection is essential for other reasons:

  • The printer firmware and settings can be updated remotely by HP at any time and without notice to customers.
  • HP can remotely monitor printer use, including but not limited to:
    • page counts
    • types of documents printed (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, pdf, jpeg, etc.)
    • types of devices that initiated print jobs
    • printer serial number
    • cartridge information (e.g. HP original cartridge status, and whether the cartridge was new or used at the time of its last insertion into the printer)”
    • AND the most worrying part “and other similar types of metrics related to your Service as may be added by HP from time to time
    • It’s possible, under HP’s rules, for the company to copy details of any document printed including the content.  Surely HP would not be so foolish to breach customer privacy in such an extreme way. But there’s nothing in their ‘terms of service’ to stop them and they would not have to tell customer they are doing it.

Perhaps the requirement of a connection to HP’s servers is the reason why third-party and refilled cartridges won’t work? Maybe HP tracks each individual cartridge? The printer checks each cartidge inserted with HP which only allows new HP ink/toner?

If you have trouble sleeping, here’s HP’s Instant Ink Terms and Conditions all 7,268 words.

For ‘Internet’ read ‘HP monitoring’

HP subscription customers are required to maintain a connection from the printer to the Internet.  Saying connection to ‘the Internet’ is a little misdirection, that really means a link to HP’s monitoring servers.

All these restrictions would be somewhat acceptable if they were presented more fairly and openly to customers BEFORE buying. 

Perhaps a sales model with two prices for a printer?  A lower price but requiring a consumables ‘subscription’ or a higher up-front price with ink/toner bought by the customer as required.

Other companies have twin pricing options.  Amazon has two prices for some Kindle’s, cheaper with ads displayed on the device or higher with no ads.  Microsoft has a two-tier system for Office, either subscription or single payment albeit the differences are a lot more complicated.

The open-ended monitoring requirement is unacceptable in our view. It’s as if HP has been deaf to increasing concerns about customer privacy in the tech industry.  Printers should be able to work offline for at least a few days and HP’s data collection should be limited to specific elements and no more.

I’ve been a long-time fan of HP printers, having relied on them for decades back when a lot more printing was necessary.  Now it’s hard to even consider a HP printer, not knowing what traps are lurking in their legalese now or might be added in the future.  A company once known for its high-quality products has now sunk to low marketing trickery and excessive control.

Or perhaps this is all a plan by HP to push customers to their printer rivals like Canon or Brother?

Three traps in a printer ink subscription
Save money on printer ink, toner and consumables
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