HP Instant Ink Program. Learn more

HP instant ink program

In 2013 HP launched the HP instant ink program.  What is it?  Well quite simply it’s a subscription service that allows printer ink to be delivered to your door for what appears to be a very attractive rate on the face of it.  In addition, HP claims that it will save consumers up to 50% on printer ink.  Is it really too good to be true?

Well, like anything in life, it depends on you.

Let’s start at the 50% savings claim.  According to HP, this is based on the cost of a 12 month HP instant ink service plan compared against the cost-per-page of the majority of colour inkjet printers as reported by the OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers).  In addition, the savings are only realized provided the user never exceeds the monthly per-page allotment.

Hmm, that’s interesting and hopefully you picked up on it.  Put another way:  if you currently use only OEM printer ink cartridges and you will never exceed the per-page allotment, you will save money.

In a strange way this is similar to a vacation property timeshare.  You have an annual maintenance fee on your ink cartridge and for that privilege you are locked into that particular cartridge forever.

If your saving money, that could be a good thing.  However, like timeshares, if you compare alternatives in the market you will often find lower cost options available that make you question if you’re really saving money.

Likewise, the HP instant ink savings claim erodes if you print more than you should which could happen more often than you think.  Look at it this way; the base plan is 50 pages per month and HP printers print up to 16.5 pages per minute.  That’s 3 whole minutes of printing per month!  Hopefully your cat doesn’t jump onto the keyboard and accidentally send a print job to the printer.

We should also point out the definition of a printed page.  According to the terms, a printed page is a page upon which any amount of ink is placed by your printer (and dual sided pages count as 2).

HP Instant Ink savings also instantly disappear if you routinely purchase compatible or remanufactured ink cartridges.  Why is that? Well, because HP instant ink savings are based on the cost of OEM cartridges.  And OEM cartridges are routinely 70% more expensive than comparable compatible or remanufactured ink cartridges.

So if you are among those consumers who only purchase OEM printer ink and can always unequivocally remain within the allotted page count, then this program could be a good one for you.   We’re guessing however that the fact that you are reading this blog on our website in the first place is an indication of your willingness to look all options available.  If that is true, then the only ink you should be buying is likely this HP instant ink; especially if the decision is based solely on cost savings.

There is one other category of user that should be cautions when it comes to HP instant ink, that is those who print very irregularly.  Are you someone that doesn’t usually need to replace a cartridge within a given year?  If you are, you may end up feeling like you’re paying a monthly fee but not getting much back in return.

Up till now we have focused primarily on the savings but there are also numerous other considerations to take into account when looking at the HP instant ink program.  A few good questions:

-Are you willing to let HP monitor your printer through the internet?

-What if your printed page contains streaks?

-Replacements are shipped with delivery within 10 days.  What will you do if you are out today?

-What if you forget to notify HP of a change in your credit card number and your service gets put on hold?

How about firmware updates? 

Did you know that beginning in late 2015, HP implemented firmware updates that were claimed to improve printer security by blocking use of non-HP cartridges.   This in effect forced consumers to purchase HP OEM ink to be used in their HP printer as opposed to less costly alternatives.  A practice otherwise known as coercive tied selling, which is illegal in Canada.

Although HP later recanted and released an updated firmware allowing the use of alternatives, it is still noteworthy that many of the consumers impacted were previously part of the HP instant ink program.

By virtue of being in the instant ink program, these consumer’s printers had been automatically set to download & apply the latest firmware update.  As a result, when the firmware updates were first released it affected those consumers “instantly” and disproportionately.  Many consumers simply woke up one morning to find their printers no longer working as HP had locked them out.

Many of our customers who were not part of the instant ink program remained unaffected during the HP firmware update noted above by virtue of the fact that their printers were not set to automatically download the latest firmware updates.

In summary, the HP instant ink program may be a good fit for some consumers while not so great for others.  Artists who print full page images that use more ink and who demand only the best quality may benefit while those who seldom print may end up spending more.  Do your calculations and chose wisely.