HP bows to pressure, reinstates free monthly ink plan… for existing customers

In a classic reverse ferret, HP is going to honour a previous commitment to Instant Ink customers meaning they will, after all, be able to print up to 15 pages per month for free over the lifetime of the printer.

Just last month El Reg revealed HP had told customers it was ending the free tier of its monthly plan – one it first marketed in 2017 to encourage customers to sign to the subscription service. Worse still, HP then automatically enrolled those customers into the paid-for service due to start in December.

Well, there has been a change of heart. Call it the spirit of Christmas or – more likely – a customer backlash, but HP made a U-turn and yesterday started to email customers to inform them.

“We previously notified you that the plan for your DeskJet 2630 would be changing, but as a valued customer, you can now continue printing up to 15 pages/month at no charge for the life of your printer,” HP wrote.

It added: “We understand that printing at home is essential in today’s world, and hope that your HP Instant Ink plan will continue to make life a little easier for you.”

Other than the reinstatement of the free plan, which HP had proposed to scrap and instead charge £0.99 each month for those 15 pages, all other tiers are priced exactly the same as before.

One area the free tier will no longer apply to is new customers. In its mail to customers, HP confirmed in a statement to The Reg:

“The no-monthly-fee 15 page plan is not available to new customers or transferrable to a new printer, and you will no be able to return to the no-monthly-fee plan if you upgrade or cancel.”

Reg reader Martin Kerr told us: “The issue I had with their previous position was that they were breaking the assurance that the 15 pages free of charge plan would be available ‘for the life of the printer’. My printer is alive and well with a good pulse and many years left in it.”

He reckoned HP had reviewed the decision taken last month and changed its position “based on user feedback” and said this was “some good news at the end of a bad news year.”

Another reader who asked to remain anonymous said HP was reacting to a “strength of feeling” among its customer base.

“HP had no choice but to rescind on the planned closure of the free plan,” he added. “Also, I would suggest that due to COVID, home printing has never been in greater demand, so their timing to withdraw the free plan wasn’t great.”

Printing by consumers has rocketed in lockdown, as shown in HP’s latest set of financial results for its Q4 of fiscal 2020, ended 31 October.

Ink used to account for roughly three-quarters of HP’s profit but cartridge remanufacturers or cloners have dented those profits in recent years, forcing HP to rethink its strategy.

CEO Enrique Lores said last month HP was gradually reducing the number of “unprofitable” customer accounts. ®

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