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The nightmare is real: HP makes printing a monthly subscription

hp printers repeating patternImage: HP

HP said in January that it hoped and dreamed to make printing a subscription. Now, the company has done just that, with the All-In Plan that allows HP customers a limited number of printed pages per month for a monthly fee, with a two-year commitment and potential overage charges, too.

“The HP All-In Plan is an all-inclusive printing subscription that delivers the ultimate in convenience—and provides the dedicated support you need to keep your printer running like new,” HP claims. But you’d better believe in the value of printing regular documents, because signing up locks you in to a two-year contract after thirty days.

When HP chief executive Enrique Lorres said in January that the company aspired to making printing a subscription, he wasn’t kidding.

“Our view is that we need to make printing as easy as possible,” Lorres said. “And our long-term objective is to make printing a subscription. This is really what we have been driving. We know it reduces the barriers to print, it offers a much more convenient solution to customers, and especially, [it] is more sustainable.”

How HP’s All-In Plan printer subscription plan works

To its credit, HP’s All-In Plan is indeed pretty simple. Customers essentially choose from one of three printers (the HP Envy printer, for $6.99/mo and up; the HP Envy Inspire printer, for $8.99/mo and up; or the HP OfficeJet Pro; for $12.99/mo and up.) The Envy is basically a low-end personal printer/scanner that prints 10 pages per minute; the Envy Inspire offers faster printing while the OfficeJet Pro is fastest of all, and includes fax capabilities.

After two years, HP says it will offer an “upgrade,” presumably to a newer printer model.

Mark Hachman / IDG

All three are double-sided, color printers, and here’s the first advantage HP offers: you can print every page in color, if you so choose, and the printer ink is free. HP’s printers automatically sense when you’re getting low on printer ink, and will rush whatever ink you need by the next day, HP says.

If your printer conks out, HP will also provide round-the-clock support, and, again next-day service if for some reason you need a replacement. HP will also provide mailing labels for returning an old printer and/or cartridges.

HP promises “no upfront cost,” either — you don’t need to buy a printer or ink, just sign up for the All-In Plan and HP takes care of the rest. But it’s not quite so easy as that, either.

The gotchas behind HP’s All-In Plan subscription

For one thing, you have thirty days to cancel after signing up. After that, you’re locked in. And HP’s plans don’t just adhere to their base rate, either.

For example, HP’s Envy printer plan begins at $6.99/mo. But that’s the “light” plan, limiting you to a paltry 20 pages per month. That plan also climbs to monthly fees of $8.99 (50 pages) or $10.99 (100 pages). If you opt for the HP Envy Inspire plan instead, your monthly costs will be $8.99 (20 pages/mo), $10.99 (50 pages), $12.99 (100 pages), or $18.99 (300 pages). And if you’re running a home business, you’ll have $22.99 (300 pages/mo) and $35.99 (700 pages/mo) monthly options, too.

If you go over your monthly printing allotment, HP has that covered, too: you’ll be charged $1 for a “set” of between ten and fifteen pages. Naturally, consumers can always upgrade their plan, too.

But the worst part about HP’s printer subscription is that, yes — it’s still a subscription. And once that 30-day grace period expires, you’re locked in and will be forced to pay a cancellation fee to get out of it, as shown below.

But that’s the catch that comes with many subscriptions these days: Once you begin, there’s no real easy way to exit the subscription. (There are a few exceptions: thanks, Netflix.) But HP’s All-In Plan simply means that you could sign up, accept a printer, not print a single page, and still be on the hook for at least $60. Maybe that makes sense. But it’s not the world I’d like to live in.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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