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HP Instant Ink is “ink as a service” (pluralistic.net)
567 points by samizdis 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 339 comments



Wow, this is actually much worse than I thought it would be from the title!

> HP rolled out a pay-on-price "Free Ink for Life" plan that gave you 15 pages every month for as long as you owned your printer. But this is HP we're talking about, so words have no meaning. Last month, HP notified its "free ink for life" customers that their life had ended, and they were being moved to a new afterlife where they had to pay $0.99/month

And from what I can tell in a quick Google search, HP introduced the "free ink for life" plan less than a year ago. So "life" lasted less than a year!


While that is awful, I think the 'free ink for life' plan was just as sneaky in itself. Having bought a cheap HP inkjet printer recently, I was curious about the free ink plan. But it's a trick - you can't agree to the free ink, then just buy 3rd party ink when you want more. No, if you go over 15 pages a month, the IOT printer will automatically order you the ink and bill your account. Buying cheaper ink will just be a waste of ink because you won't be able to print with it without ordering more HP ink.

That is truly evil.


That looks like a class action suit. I can't believe "free X for life" can be reasonably interpreted as "free X for a year and then you have to pay".


As if there wasn't a binding arbitration clause in the Ink for Life service agreement.


If enough people file individual actions with the binding arbitration company, they'll _wish_ it was a class action instead.


That trick only works the first few times. Language will be adjusted in new and even old agreements. Also, IIRC, in one of those infamous cases the arbitration company gave their client a bulk discount, because the arbitration company knows which side of their bread is buttered. Undoubtedly new contracts with arbitration companies already include special pricing for mass arbitration, presumably tailored to minimize the client's and arbitrator's costs while maximizing their client's customers' costs.


Arbitration isn't a magic wand.

If the arbitrator colludes with one side, the other side can file class action.

A more practical answer is telling everyone you know that HP is a sham company, and avoid their products like the rona.


If negotiating costs with the arbitrator could, per se, constitute cognizable collusion I don't think arbitration would be a thing. It is a thing. Therefore we're stuck with the system.

What really needs to happen is for Congress to legislatively overturn conservative justices' belated, radical reinterpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act, effectively preempting traditional state law-based policies that reign in unfair arbitration practices. But anti-trial lawyer propaganda has permeated deep into the American psyche, including among Democrats. Legislation that could be spun as empowering trial lawyers has become something of a third rail in American politics, especially at the national level. The alternative to fixing the FAA is to do like Civil Law countries and create more regulatory bodies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But 1) both conservative legislators and judges make it their hobby to cripple those agencies; and 2) I, for one, would prefer going back to a regime that permits more private actions because, at least in modern American politics, a centralized consumer protection process is politically impractical even without the disingenuous and baldly partisan efforts of politicians and judges.

The problem with regulatory agencies is that to be effective they have to stick their nose into everybody's business preemptively. That's not a good fit for American-style enterprise and politics. The nice thing about civil suits is that, at least in principle, they can only happen when someone has actually been wronged and suffered actual losses. Which means companies can move fast & break things, so long as they're prepared to pay for any damages.


> Which means companies can move fast & break things, so long as they're prepared to pay for any damages.

Or go bankrupt, like the Upper Graystone Well 963A Fracking Co.


It was conservative activist judges all along.


I always wonder if it is reasonable to assume that people are capable of understanding service agreements. Like, could a court make a decision that the customer was not a lawyer and therefore could not fully understand the agreement. Further, that the barrier to hiring a lawyer to understand such an agreement is too high (i.e. expensive) and it is unreasonable to expect the customer to do so.


A court COULD make that decision, but there're centuries of precedent that this is not the case, which is tragic. The court will assume that no reasonable person would agree to a contract without reading the contents and consulting with a lawyer on anything that is unclear during the contract's negotiations, and for major contracts between large companies, they would be correct.

It would be a nearly revolutionary change to introduce a law like "you cannot meaningfully agree to any contracts or agreements without a lawyer advising you and a representative of the other party empowered to negotiate the terms." I'm all for it, though.

You'd need to fix several other kinds of laws around liability for negligence and the like, but those things need fixing anyway. The current hack where everybody agrees to waive their rights to sue for negligence is stupid. You would, however, need a new kind of thing that handled common agreements like terms of a credit card. There need to be terms, hiring lawyers for each person is ridiculous, but "contract" is probably the wrong model since no customer could be expected to understand it all, meaningfully consent to it, or negotiate the terms. I would be interested in what an alternative system could be. I kind of imagine a government body deciding on acceptable terms for various forms of business, effectively acting as the customer's agent in negotiations, but that seems ripe for corruption and also really inefficient and hard to innovate around. Suggestions?


An idea I have had is having a way to create a voluntary consumer association which can negotiate terms with other parties on behalf of its members. These agreements would override any terms a member accidentally agrees to with respect to that party unless the member explicitly informs the association that they are negotiating their own agreement.

This would provide a way for consumers to collectively negotiate these contracts in their own interest while still allowing companies to create specific non-trivial contracts that properly manage the expected relationship.

This has the desirable property that it supports heterogeneous solutions and encourages competition amongst contract negotiators to negotiate better terms or ones that more closely align with the interests of their members.


> The court will assume that no reasonable person would agree to a contract without reading the contents and consulting with a lawyer

That's what I always do when I go to the grocery store to buy eggs and to Office Depot to buy printer ink. I call my lawyer and say "It's that time again, I have to buy some printer paper, ink, carrots, eggs and cheese, so that's five contracts for you to read and verify, we should be done in less than a day!". With very reasonable price of $400 per hour, I don't even have to ask what the actual items cost, compared to the expense for the contact reading it's peanuts anyway. Oh, btw, need to call the lawyer about the contract for peanuts, I'm almost out!


Yes, that'd be ridiculous, and that's why my grocery store does not require me to sign any agreements when I buy produce.


Suggestion: regulation. There are already many industries where what you can agree to is regulated. There should be more.


Seriously. Look at the car market. Every dealership has a binding arbitration clause in their purchase agreements and will not sell you the car without it. "If you don't like it, go somewhere else". But there is nowhere else to go.


Freedom of contract. FREEDOM!!

Americans have every right to sign horrible contracts. They can also done all thier money to doll museums, or gamble it away in vegas. Like it or not, any measures that sound like they are limiting consumer choice, even choice to make obvious mistakes, will face serious resistance.

The outer limits on contracts are things like slavery, children, and taking advantage of the disabled. Bad printer service contracts dont come close.


I like the German approach here (surprise, /me German...):

Non-negiotiable standard contracts that are applied to consumer contracts en masse are called "Allgemeine Geschaeftsbedingungen (AGB)" (roughly: common business conditions). A business may apply those, but if they do, they need to conform to a restrictive law (AGBG) regulating what is and isn't allowed in such conditions. E.g. no future changes without an exchange of equal value to the changes, no surprising clauses that are not "normal" for this kind of situation, no grossly unequal considerations to begin with.

Individuals and businesses still have freedom of contract however, if a contract is really negotiated freely, that is, in an equal exchange between both parties. If there was no negotiation or a very unequal one ("take it or leave it, we'll block any of your change requests but you need the ink now"), AGBG applies. In all situations mentioned above, the consumer had no opportunity to negotiate (a symbolic "negotiation phone number" in the smallprint doesn't count, etc), so all those fancyful clauses or the whole contract conditions would just be unenforcable, with the most consumer-friendly interpretation applied to the rest as a matter of law.


That is specifically the problem here; you don't have freedom of contract if there is no possiblity of negotiating a different contract.


The freedom is before signing. You are free to sign or not, make whatever deal you care to. That includes signing away your ability to get out of bad deals.


> You are free to [...] make whatever deal you care to.

Again, the problem is specifically that you are not free to make whatever deal you care to, because the counterparty has been permitted to amortize the costs of adversarially designing one particular deal across a large number victims, and consequently is able to refuse to negotiate.


> Americans have every right to sign horrible contracts.

Sure, if you want to be known as Land of Horrible Contracts .. populated by people slavishly abiding by them in a state of learned helplessness.

If you call that "freedom", I truly hope that someone will take it from you.


I'm a big proponent of freedom to do dumb things, but in general when MOST people freely choose any given dumb thing, that's a strong symptom that they are not freely choosing.


You have it backwards. There is a mountain of precedent behind the idea that customers can't understand the fine print, and thus these "contracts of adhesion" are restricted.


That's another nasty hack, though. First, courts decide that not reading or not understanding a contract is not an excuse. Then, companies just start having their customers agree to ridiculous terms. So courts try and fix it by partially restricting those 'agreements.' "Okay, so you're allowed to waive the right to sue for negligence, but you can't waive the right to sue for gross negligence." It's a situation where companies can basically get customers to waive every right they have right up until a fuzzy "unconscionable" line. That's a quick hack around a terrible system.


Means nothing, it’s not reasonable to expect a customer to understand or read this


It’s just like “unlimited data *”


More like an FTC complaint.


This has definitely been available for more than a year, but no more than about ten, from my memory. Edit: Looks like it started in 2013, under Meg Whitman. [1]

Also, this user says it was ad-sponsored! [2]

[1] https://www.therecycler.com/posts/hp-launches-new-instant-in...

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/printers/comments/874mi2/question_a...


Thank you! I couldn't get an exact date, and made a hasty assumption because I couldn't find any stories about the program that predated January 2020. (But I didn't search for too long.)

It doesn't look like the "free" plan was available all the way back in 2013 though—it's not mentioned in your first link, and they presumably would have brought up something like that.

And more importantly, they were clearly still using this plan to sell new printers as recently as this past winter...


Interesting, I've only heard about it ~3 years ago when I got a cheap (and reliable, fwiw) Envy AIO, but it was not free.


I imagine a robber growling "$0.99 or your life!"

It's hard to tell what is more insulting, the ending of a "for life" program or the amount because of which it ends.

Also, another big warning against stuff which is "free" or "for life"; in most cases, either is commercially unsustainable.


>> or the amount because of which it ends.

a buck to print 15 pages a month on the customer's printer is a sweet deal for HP. It's pure profit and likely adds up. 6 months from now they'll bump it to $1.29 and some executive will get a multi-million dollar bonus.


A typical inkjet cartridge prints around 190 pages. So at 15 pages per $1 this is like buying cartridges at $13 a piece, except way more complicated and obnoxious. Cartridges normally cost around $20 so it is still a slight savings if you're willing to deal with the hassle of counting your pages every month.

For me however, I give that whole plan a giant middle finger. That's way too much headache and hassle for a $7 savings.


But only if you print exactly 15 pages each month


They do roll over up to 45 pages, so it's not entirely unreasonable that someone would use all or at least most of their credits.


It has definitely been around for more than a year. We bought a printer three years ago that tried to get us to sign up for this. I remember it being pretty aggressive about it too.


I had a HP printer once. That was enough for me to learn that I will never buy any product from them ever again.

These kind of "we need to trick money out of you" methods are not limited to their printers. The one HP notebook that I installed half a decade ago was the worst bloated system I have ever seen.

Only their displays seem to be not cursed by that plague — yet.

It is too sad that there is no reasonable open hardware printer, so for now brother laserprinters will have to do. Costs <100€, toner cost per page is low and the thing runs for a decade (in my case) without weird issues.


Really shouldn't be surprised by the shit HP pulls... At least their workstations are still great.


Yes, HP is a giant scumbag. But the conclusion from the big printer thread last week:

just buy a Brother laser printer and never look back. Seriously, inkjet and all of the surrounding bullshit is not worth the time or the money or the energy or the frustration.


Indeed. Who prints documents with inkjet?

I have a Brother MFCL3730CDN CMYK laser for document scan/print/copy and Epson EcoTank ET-14000 for photo and art prints.

A-fscking-mazing devices both.

Both provide (to be found somewhere in the maze of modern hardware vendor websites) solid (modulo CUPS wrangling and vendor filesystem layout) Linux packages. I've only had one recent glitch when Brother introduced some sort of USB/network bridge daemon that occupied the port so VueScan (Software so good that I don't mind that it's not open source, because it does exactly what I need and more. A work of art worth every penny.) couldn't find the scanner.


Inkjets are tempting if you don't print many documents because the initial cost is pretty low. And ink cartridges also tend to be low cost compared to toner at the unit level. Laser printers take up more space too.

The problem is if you don't print a lot, the cartridges dry out, and the ink clogs in the printer and whatever else, leading to a big pain.


The Xerox Phaser solid ink printers produced really pretty images. It's a shame they are discontinued. I think you can still buy the ink blocks but they are probably going to phase them out.


That reminds me of a funny story. A previous employer had replaced a bunch of ancient HP LaserJets (we're talking LJ4s.. they were old) with these really nice Phasers. They printed fast, the output was gorgeous, and the drivers didn't suck. The replacement was facility-wide, so there were around 20 of these things.

A month later, IT was tasked with re-replacing them for everyone but marketing overnight. Literally overnight, as in, we're paying overtime for this. The boss didn't know what was happening until a week later, but it was a fire drill of an intensity that you usually don't see outside of a full outage.

It turned out that, while the Phasers do generate gorgeous hardcopy, the wax-like prints, can, with some effort, some skill, and a sharp knife, be popped off the page. A customer figured this out and had been effectively stealing service by way of paying invoices with numbers quite literally pulled off the page. The old Laserjets were placed back into service everywhere but the marketing group.


Haha true. They’re much better for photo and presentation than for legal documents.


I paid like £30 for used laser colour printer couple of years ago and I've been printing a lot since then. Never had to buy any toner or other maintenance products, except for paper.


If you print only occasionally, wouldn't it be easier to just use a print shop? Not sure how common they are in the US though.


I detect an opportunity for Amazon to introduce Prime Printing with same day shipping.


Before I bought a laser printer, I used to just go to the library to print things, at least document-wise (probably wouldn't work for photos).

Libraries are literally everywhere in the US, they're more common than McDonalds.


If your library doesn't have a print service you can use a Kinkos instead. It's more expensive, but if you only print once in a blue moon it's cheaper and less hassle than an inkjet (which will be all dried out or the cartridge will be empty from running the nozzle cleaning cycle every few days) when you need it that second time.

Laser printers can sit idle much longer but they're bulky and sometimes energy hogs.


Is library printing not a thing everywhere?

I've always seen it at every library I've been at (both school and public), but I suppose it might be more of a regional thing.


I live in Chicago and there's a bunch of FedEx shops a bus ride away. They all have self-serve pay-per-page printers, just bring in a USB drive with whatever you want to print.

On top of those, a few months ago I found a PrintWithMe [0] station at a corner store that's only a 5 minute walk away.

[0] https://www.printwithme.com/


I have the same Vuescan (awesome awesome awesome software) issue with my Canon MG6220.

It "generally" works over Ethernet, but occasionally goes off the rails, and I have to scan over USB.

Because of that, I have the printer installed twice, once on the Network (where it lives most of its life, shared) and once as USB, that I connect during really heavy scanning sessions, which is seldom.


People with kids.

I have $200 OfficeJet that has a free fax service that I need once in awhile and I use the instant ink thing.

Laser MFPs are expensive and the toner is super expensive. Brother lasers are great as long as you’re ok with 600dpi.


Aren't there 1200 dpi BW laser printers?


Yes, just not the <$90 models often recommended. Laser costs go up fast, and good color quality is a physically large unit usually.

If you care about print output and print often, inkjet will get you better value.


> Who prints documents with inkjet?

Most people print with whatever their employer/university has.


so true - when i started working at home full time 3 years ago i purchased my first ever printer


I've converted our office to Brother (4 printers), my parents to brother (2 printers) as well as bought 3 Brother printers myself over the last 12 years. Such an amazing printer and company.

And remember it works flawlessly with Linux.


I have recently bought an office class Brother printer. It works flawlessly on Linux; but it doesn’t work flawlessly on Macs, and I’ve found bug reports for the same thing going back to 2015.

When you use the Mac OS built in “scanner” app to scan to PDF, it will scan in color even when you ask it to scan in B&W; unfortunately, this will confuse the app and the pdf will be corrupted.

The recommended workaround is “scan in color” (which I do, and then use Ghostscript to convert to b&w), but it’s ridiculous.

That said, as far as quality, speed, robustness and reliability, this is the best printer/scanner/fax machine I ever used. And it works perfectly well on Linux.


My wife has a mac and it just has a terrible experience with our brother laser. The print queue just says "cannot connect to printer" but I can open up the printer's web server, use the printer setting to check toner level &c. Then a few hours or days later it prints spontaneously.

I thought it might be bonjour not working well over wifi, but the problem persists even when I assign the printer an IP address manually. I'm stumped.


What is the "office class" printer you have trouble with?

I've never seen this issue with my Brother MFC-2740DW using "Image Capture" on my Mac (which I assume you are referring to as the built-in scanner app). It's worked flawlessly for me (as did my previous Brother laser printer/scanner).


An MFC-L3730CDN .

I am still using Mojave; I was unaware of the "Image Capture" app - I opened the printer icon, which has a "Scanner" button on the right when you have a multifunction printer - but it appears to be the same underlying implementation, and it has the same bug, described here:

https://support.brother.com/g/b/faqend.aspx?c=hk&lang=en&pro...

perhaps it was fixed in Catalina; the page I linked (with the exact kind of corruption I just tested through Image Capture) is from 2012...


By "scanner" app do you mean Preview? My several-year-old Brother laser printer works fine in B&W mode on Catalina. Maybe this is just a thing with newer models.


TIL: Preview can import from the scanner.

I was using the scanner window available from the printer icon associated with the multifunction printer. Another comment mentioned the standalone "Image Capture.app" which was also news to me.

However, all three are using the same underlying implementation. Scanning in color works. Scanning to JPEG works. However my preferred scanning mode (300dpi, A4, to PDF) produces the garbled image seen here[0], and apparently has been doing so since at least 2012 ...

My impression is that preview/scanner/imagecapture all trust the printer to do the conversion to PostScript/PDF, but somehow don't manage to tell it to use B&W instead of color -- it seems like r/g/b pixels are treated as individual gray pixels.

[0] https://support.brother.com/g/b/faqend.aspx?c=hk&lang=en&pro...


I've been using my Brother laser printer for something like a decade now. I bought toner for it once in like 2013. Never had any problems. The linux drivers are through a third party repo but they work great.

In the days when you're expected to buy a new cell phone every two years and a new computer every four it feels like black magic that it just ... sits there ... and.. works.


After the fiasco with an HP InkJet MFP, we went with Brother. Instead of constantly using steam to clean clogged jets, it just... works. Much less fiddly. The missus mostly prints from her iPad, phone, or Windows laptop, I haven't used it much from Linux.


In the big printer thread referenced, the consensus was that they do not work flawlessly with Linux.


The big printer thread from last week (actually 2 days ago): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24977699


it's been a long week... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


A long year really


The Allied Mastercomputer is having his sick way with us.


Coulda sworn it was 2 weeks ago.


THIS. I gave up on HP printers in about 2007 when I realized that their required software was absolutely terrible, at least on my machine. It was huge install, and caused a number of weird problems. The Brothers I have work well with a minimum of problems although my Brother color printer required a new drum set awfully fast (and cost more than I paid for the printer).

For inkjet, I use Canon and I love them, although the ink is expensive, especially the 8-color ink packs.


For inkjet printer, I think Epson's ink tank printer is great. The printer cost 3x compared to other cheap loss-leader inkjet printers, but the inks are cheap and you buy it by the bottle instead of by the drips in cartridges.


You and I are in a similar camp. I have a monochrome Brother laser (with Duplex) and a Color Canon Inkjet, both on wired networking. Both work well including printing from my phone. Not problems with either, I print mostly on the laser, occasionally on the inkjet. The Canon inkjet can sit idle for weeks at a time, and I still haven't had a plugged nozzle in eight years.


I've had a Brother HL-2170W for at least a decade. Bought a new toner cartridge once. The current one has been "low" for a couple of years.

The printer just keeps working. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if it lased another decade.


Yeah I've had a MFC-L2740DW for something like 7 years now, and it's an absolute beast. It was like AUD$250 or something on sale, does printing/scanning/copying/etc, has wifi, and works on all our devices flawlessly (windows, mac, linux, phones, tablets). I've bought toner I think once in that entire time.


What sort of problems do you have with the 32bit drivers (beyond "I don't like it")?


I think you meant to reply here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25010133


Indeed I did, thanks.


32-bit drivers? Most laser printer drivers are just a PPD file. You don’t need to install any executables or whatever. Heck, on a lot of printers you can just use Bonjour printing without installing any drivers at all!


The cheaper Brother printers don’t have a PostScript engine, so you need a “driver” (really a CUPS filter) to rasterize the image and prepend the appropriate PCL commands. In the official Linux driver package, at least for my printer, this comes in the form of a rather complicated shell script that hooks together some binary blobs, and if you don’t have all the right 32-bit support libraries it just mysteriously fails to produce any output while CUPS reports that the print job completed successfully.

Fortunately someone has made an open-source equivalent which is much less complicated and seems to work just fine.


I think brlaser and brscan are the modern replacements.


I haven't thought about drivers in a long time. It "just works" on MacOS.


As a student I owned the cheapest OKI laser printer. Once it broke so I called them. On the same day, they sent an actual engineer to my apartment to fix it.

Maybe they thought I was a business or something. No, just a guy in a rented room. I asked about it. The guy didn’t understand why I thought that was weird.

I was baffled. Oh also there was none of that nasty HP business. Buy any fitting toner and out it in.

I wonder if Oki still exists. If it does, here’s a recommendation.


It does and if you can get an OKI printer it is probably better choice than Brother. OKI and Brother printers are generally similar (in fact I would not be surprised if Brother printers are actually made by OKI), but OKI printers tend to have better firmware and actual licensed PostScript implementation from Adobe. And at least here (Czech Republic) you can often get OKI printers on sale with almost ridiculous discounts.


They got out of the US printer market this year because of COVID: https://www.oki.com/us/printing/about-us/newsroom/news-and-i...

They're still continuing in other markets though.


Sad. The OKI Microline 320 was a staple from my early 90s career in medical IT. It's still sold by Staples.


I picked up a Xerox color laser (Phaser 6510) a couple years ago during a sale and it's fantastic. Network printer, support double-side, great quality on ordinary paper and inexpensive toner (well, more than what my Laserjet 8000 toner used to cost but still not bitter).

With my kid studying at home who can print directly from the iPad, it's great.


Even if you buy an Inkjet, Brother makes good ones (ok, not as good as the lasers) that do work with third party ink. I've owned some small (8.5x 11 us letter size) ones and I just got a big one (11x17 print area), and the experience has been really, really good. It's pretty cheap to operate, even with Brother brand Ink. Their Linux support (at least Ubuntu) isn't bad either.


I did this a few users ago after the ink dried out again in my inkjet printer and I would have to drop another $100+ on ink.

I don't print often but when I need to print I need to print. I spent a bit of change on a Brother Laser printer/scanner and I don't regret that purchase one bit. It's now been years and it still works great -- I've only replaced the toner twice now.


The only thing weird about my Brother color laser printer was one day it told me I ran out of cyan. I press the button to indicate I changed it (it didn't verify) and it continued to print cyan for nearly a year. I don't print often and was still using the toner that came with the printer (less than a new cartridge would contain).


I've been avoiding laser printers since they can emit ultra-fine particles into the air, which could cause lung damage. I'm surprised to see not a single mention of this risk in the thread. Is my concern not shared by others, and do people think it's not a serious risk?


That's concerning. If true, there could even be a risk for cancer.


Yup. Bought a Brother laser printer at least five years ago, and I haven't actually changed the toner yet. And unlike infrequently used inkjet printers, it still works well too.


The only way I can ever justify buying a printer these days is snagging them off local school district surpluses.

I managed to get two different Office LaserJets for like $10 each and they work wonderfully (and it will probably be cheaper for me to buy a new printer off the school than buy more ink when I inevitably run out).


Alternatively, get ahold of an older model that works with 3rd party ink and never connect it to the internet


And if you need network connectivity a raspberry pi connected to the printer via usb is the best way to breathe life into old printers. CUPS has been really solid for me.


Most routers have an USB port to share printers, don't they?


Last time I checked, which was last year when I replaced our Brother printer/scanner with an HP inkjet, the linux drivers for brother were still only available in 32 bit format. I had put up with that for some time, mostly because Debian made it work, but that had to end somewhere.


I use Oki units which also get cheap 3rd party toner replacements, have good OS support and need a simple PPD file for Linux CUPS. Worth checking out if they're available in your market.


The whole point of this HP inkjet plan is to print full page photos. If you’re printing documents just use a laser.


I found my Brother printer in the trash !

I call her trashy. Trashy Brother.


This.


> Doctorow's novella "Unauthorized Bread" explains why we have to fight DRM today to avoid a grim future

> Salima has a problem: her Boulangism toaster is locked down with software that ensures that it will only toast bread sold to her by the Boulangism company… and as Boulangism has gone out of business, there's no way to buy authorized bread. Thus, Salima can no longer have toast.

https://www.defectivebydesign.org/blog/doctorows_novella_una...


Exactly, or like Philip K Dick's UBIK, where the protagonist has to pay his door before it lets him trough.

“The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.” He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.” “I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.” In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip. “You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug. From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door. “I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out. Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”


I highly recommend UBIK. Reading it was a mind-altering experience for me.


I felt like it might be mind-altering for the first 90% of the book, but it seemed like the ending really fell through.


A typical PKD book experience!


Sounds a lot like the true story of Juicero, that $700 juicer which only squeezed Juicero-brand juice packs, and only after connecting to WiFi and validating a QR code printed on each (rather extravagantly expensive) bag of pre-chopped vegetables.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juicero


It wasn't a completely stupid idea but:

- The price for the juice packs was outrageous

- The juicer was overbuilt. There was a hilarious teardown and BOM estimation[0]. Should have been way cheaper

- The IoT aspect served no real purpose. It added to the BOM.

But I could totally see a subscription model with an inexpensive juicer that's subsidized by a subscription to juice packs. Sure you could also buy some generic ones and someone will come up with a re-usable pouch, but really you are paying for the convenience. Nespresso did it (but coffee has way better margins than juice pouches).

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Cp-BGQfpHQ


The "inexpensive juicer" doesn't even have to be electronic. It could be a simple hand-cranked clamp.


Yes. A nice bonus would be to make the pouches compostable.


Was that the one where you could just squeeze the bag between your hands, too?


Yes, and some indication that the hand squeezing got you more juice than the machine.


Juicero is a fantastic example of modern startup overfunding and the issues with DRM and form over function. It's intensely worth reading about.


...and this is why we want not only right to repair, but right to own, as that means you can always "hack your own" when they refuse to obey you. It's also why they're so reluctant to give even right to repair, as that means they lose control.


It's even worse than that.

Whenever Salima toasts bread, her toaster orders more Boulangism bread. Even if she toasts bread that she has bought or made herself, she cannot use the toaster without her paying for genuine Boulangism bread.


Soviet Union kids might remember this book and how capitalism was displayed there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunno_on_the_Moon#Lunar_capita...

Unbelievable that nowadays it reads more like a checklist.


I actually posted this without realizing... the OP is by Cory Doctorow??


Separate from the larger concerns, just a few notes on the practical matter of being able to print paper in peace...

As people often advise, try to use a laser printer. A Laserjet 5N that I found set out for the trash on the curb one rainy night worked like a tank for over a decade, only very rarely needing consumables, which was perfect for someone in poor grad student in expensive city mode. When the muffin fan finally needed replacement, and I found a newer Laserjet on CraigsList. (And I decided to part out the 5N, rather than repair, which IIRC paid for the new one.) That CL LJ's original toner lasted many years, and a quick tipping around of the cartridge made it last longer. Eventually, I decided to buy a new (third-party) cartridge at the start of Covid (since I didn't know what would happen to supply chains).

To that, I'd add, if you care about such things: the Ethernet-facing firmware on my current printer looked so unsettling, like it might be full of vulnerabilities and possibly a lot of malware or features I didn't want, that I put my own print server in front of it (running on an old OpenWrt device, at the moment), and only connect the printer as USB. I also use open source drivers without all the features and bundleware I don't want. When I get a chance, I want to make the print server do filtering of what can be sent to the printer, since I strongly suspect there's some vulns there, but the current setup does block a lot of potential other headaches. I also have some VLAN work to do on a new router.


I also recommend using your own print server (except I had better luck with a Ubuntu box running CUPS), when everyone at home moved to laptops and smartphones it added 5-10 years to the life of a "dumb" USB printer. (And it was an old enough HP that it didn't have the same DRM or planned obsolescence build quality issues)


I properly got a genuine HP printer and cartridge combo for what seemed like a good deal ($70) in Singapore. It worked fine for about 6 months until when the cartridges had run out of ink. So, I went to a store and bought a pair of genuine HP ink which was crazy expensive (combined with black and white, it almost amounted to 80% of the printer cost for the XL size at the time). Still, I wanted to be a genuine user and I paid for it.

When I replaced the new cartridges in the tray, the printer insisted that I connect to the internet and I refused to connect it because it wasn't necessary I thought. It wouldn't let me even print a single paper despite the tray being fully loaded.

So, fine with it, I connected the damn thing to the internet. Suddenly, I got a notice saying the ink cartridges aren't genuine. I was puzzled, went back and fought with the store manager and got a replacement and they made sure it was 100% genuine this time.

So, I went back, set it up and nope. Still the same issue. The cartridges were full and brand new, and I really wanted to print some flyers for a business convention, which is why I was willing to invest the money because of the shortage of time I had.

The printer absolutely refused to print anything at all. HP support left me running around in circles like a headless chicken. I had to take a lot of heat because of this stupid printer for no fault of mine, simply because it was "smart" and needed an internet connection to do an offline job.

I was so mad that day that the first thing I did after I came from the business convention was took the damn thing apart and remove all the parts for arduino projects (motors, rollers, display, PSU, etc) and threw everything else away. I wrote a very rude note to their unhelpful customer support and went back and even apologized to the store manager who replaced my genuine cartridges.

It was an expensive lesson for me to learn not to trust any printing company, especially HP that relies on the internet to do an offline job. I follow this rule of thumb for coffee makers and every other hardware that shouldn't be "smart" and should be dumb. I'm even ready to pay the premium these days for the dumb version of a product offering simply because..it is so much simpler.


Epson Ecotank.

Just put in ink. Really - the ink come in bottles you just pour in. The ink is really chip, and it prints just as pretty as another inkjet, including quality photos


These have a designed in end-of-life.

Essentially a counter, that once it reaches zero, you have to ship your whole printer off (at super high expense) to replace a sponge inside the printer. Even if you open up your printer and clean it, there's no user way of resetting the counter.

Search for "Ecotank reset" for more details. But essentially they've priced the required maintenance at the cost of the printer, so the whole thing gets replaced after a certain number of cycles (and cycles aren't the same as pages, it will draw/dispose of ink every printer startup).


The "sponge" is called a waste ink pad. You can buy them off amazon and replace them yourself [0].

[0]: https://www.amazon.in/Nimble-Waste-Epson-L110-Printers/dp/B0...


As I said, this doesn't reset the counter therefore it doesn't solve the artificial problem. There's no user way of resetting the counter.


I heard about that rumor and I also heard others say you can just DIY reset it.

Anyway mine still runs fine so we’ll see


Only if you print a lot. Otherwise the system dries out and breaks. For light loads, go laser (not HP).

Print photos at a shop, it's cheaper and better.


When I had HP printer I remember having debates whether to print something, draw it by hand to save money or how to avoid printing altogether. At one point it was cheaper to buy a new printer with ink than ink.


> draw it by hand

Hahah, as funny as that sounds, it was a thought that crossed my mind as well when I owned the printer. That's crazy a printer company would push you so far.


Assuming you don't live in Singapore does this suggest that the ink cartridges are region coded?


We no longer own anything, we're all share-croppers on Corporate Estates.

I really never saw printer ink being something else we subscribe to.


Well if you buy a supertank printer, prices for everything all of a sudden seem a lot more reasonable, but you have to pay $200 more for your printer. Now your printer costs the $300 it seems like it should cost based on all the mechanical parts and technology inside of it.

It's because we finance our printer purchases with future interest payments in the form of ink.


You can also buy a cheap printer and hack it with a CIS. I have an old Epson with that setup, and a program some friendly Russian hackers made to disable the cartridge chip DRM. I also mix my own ink, 50% dilution is perfect for text and makes the already cheap bulk ink even cheaper --- I haven't calculated the exact cost but it's probably even cheaper than dot matrix.

(I bet that really irritates the corporate scumbags...)


> a program some friendly Russian hackers made to disable the cartridge chip DRM.

Open source, or some binary/blob? I'm increasingly less willing to run binary only code from entities I don't have a way to sue or have some legal recourse against if they do something against my interests.


Not open-source, but I trust them because I learned of it from some long-lost forums (which also had hacked printer firmwares to patch out such things), and others had also not experienced any problems. I trust the community far more than the manufacturers (who are certainly doing things against my interests), it reminds me of this:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13925994

I did sniff the communications it did with the printer, so I could probably write an open-source version if I really wanted to; but I don't think there's all that much value in doing so.

...but someone did think there was, so there's this: https://github.com/lion-simba/reink


Do you really have recourse against HP? I don't think they would have pulled this bait-and-switch if we did.


Well, in my case it's probably the difference between buying a printer or not, not buying HP or not. My wife has a printer (Epson) for her home business, and I'll have her print me something occasionally, but for a business I'm willing to make some allowances. For personal use, I've been so disgusted with the printer market for decades that removing those companies from all aspects except manufacturing and initial purchase is the only thing that makes that purchase palatable.

So, the question becomes, what's the cost of removing those companies and their supply chains/software after purchase? If it's well trusted software that doesn't require constant attention, that's attractive. If it's random people providing binaries in a country that I may or may not have any chance of getting recourse if they harm me (that is, trajan horse or exploit, not accidental hardware bricking/breakage), then I'm left wondering whether it's worth it.


Of course the DIY hack has always been there, but there is also a value of your time issue too. Like black ink bottle that lasts for 5000 pages costs like $15. For many here having a new maintenance job of maintaining their DIY hack version that breaks more, is less color accurate and is more fragile to move around is not worth the $100-200 your saving from just buying a supertank upfront.


There are plenty of companies from which you can buy printers that don't do this shit. Just don't buy HP products. Problem solved. Of course I also think that this practice should be illegal, but you're overstating the problem by a fair margin.


The solution to companies continuously eroding our rights to own things by first moving to licensing for digital goods long ago, and now moving to licensing for physical goods, is not to just ignore it and use another company, because them doing this allows them to extract more money than they otherwise wood, making this a lucrative strategy. Strategies that make money don't go away.

The way to deal with business practices that harm the consumer or public is to regulate or legislate them in some way. This is why we don't allow child labor. We didn't just tell people "well, choose a company that doesn't employ little children".


Antitrust enforcement would also help. Also anti-competitive patent cross-licensing agreements create a virtual cartel of printer companies.

The patent deals started with HP, Canon and IBM having a cross-license. Lexmark inherited that deal and was able to enter the market after it spun out from IBM but took the printer patent licenses with it. Things evolved a lot since then, but the same tactics are employed to keep out new entrants.


I don't agree. If this detestable practice causes a lot of people go buy Brother printers, then HP will make less money, not more. It seems like your whole argument rests on this flawed notion that licensing practices are always more profitable, but it just isn't true. They might be unit profitable, but it doesn't help if you move much fewer units.


> If this detestable practice causes a lot of people go buy Brother printers, then HP will make less money, not more.

Except that Brother can do the same if they want. Also, lets me clear to talk about profit, and not sales, as "money they make" can be interpreted either way, and locking someone into your product is a classic way to increase profit. Even if brother sells twice as many printers, and makes three times as much money in profit on hardware sales, are they really better off than HP if HP is making even more money by locking people into ink sales and making 6x the hardware cost on ink?

Vilifying behavior doesn't incentivize companies to stop doing it, it incentivizes them to keep the public from learning about it or making it so they can't do anything about it once they do.

Capitalism and the free market are predicated on accurate information that people can assess in a timely manner. When that breaks down in some way, whether it be negative information being hidden until it's too late or information that is just very hard for the average person to acquire and assess, that's where the government comes in.

> They might be unit profitable, but it doesn't help if you move much fewer units.

It depends entirely on how much more profitable each unit might be, and how much having guaranteed ink sales can be used to leverage other opportunities, and other opportunities that may come up from having a captive customer base.


Changing the terms yea, but the practice of selling things as services, no. People are shocked at first because they couldn't imagine ink was a service but eventually, it'll become normal and nobody will get ripped off.


Great analogy, and like the estates that didn't innovate the corporations that don't innovate will die. The HP printer business is dying like a lot of the hardware world.


The slow regression to serfdom.


If you ever fold usury and debt bondage into your thesis, please cc me.


What about birth control pills? Or any prescription, for that matter?


These do not pretend to be free. You pay for them directly or through medical insurance.


I've seen large signs at several drug stores "Free flu shots!"

Small print: "Flu shot is free only if your insurance covers all of it."

So, yeah, pretending to be free has spread to that industry too.


> "Flu shot is free only if your insurance covers all of it."

More accurate would be "Flu shot is free if you already paid for it through the insurance contributions that are reducing your take-home pay"


I don't think the comparison to digital streaming services holds up, there are plenty of subscription services that send you products and it's pretty silly to say that you don't own products that are being sent to you. It's not like HP can revoke a digital license to all of the ink I've already received. The issue here has nothing to do with subscription services themselves and everything to do with HP arbitrarily changing the terms of a deal to mandate a subscription service.


> It's not like HP can revoke a digital license to all of the ink I've already received

That is literally what they are doing through printer firmware. They are literally preventing you from printing freely.


HP also region-lock their ink like it’s a dvd or something.

As I discovered when my UK printer was accidentally shipped with US ink. The printer permanently locked itself and refused to accept any HP ink sold in the UK.

Will never buy anything from HP ever again.


And they can continue to do it, even revoking their own print cartridges if they want to. "Oh, that's 2020 ink, it won't print in 2021."


Shhhhhhhhhhh, don't give them any ideas.

It'd be way too easy to claim that the ink is past it's best-by date, and that they want you to have a trouble free experience with their ink, so they are disabling that bad expired ink.


Doesn't ink expire normally after a few years?


toner cartridges last forever. I've only used 3-4 over the past 20 years, including the replacement stored for years after I bought it my printer because I assume they would pull that intro-cartridge horseshit but they didn't - they still won!


It's horrifying to think that any ink that I might have stocked up maybe 2 years ago during a sale could be unusable.

Plus, since it's a consumable, it's much harder to return a defective ink cartridge once the packaging has been opened.


"Oh, not ink bought in Utica, no, only Albany ink."


Lexmark already does this with their toner cartridges on mid-size business machines.


“Oh that’s Word 8, it doesn’t work with Windows 10.”


Well I must say, after coming back to check the thread later on I've learned a lot about HP's awful business practices. Based on the article (and the fact that I've had the same HP printer for over a decade now) I had no idea that they were using DRM in their ink cartridges. I guess when I finally update my printer I'll be switching to a different brand.


> It's not like HP can revoke a digital license to all of the ink I've already received.

Actually, it's exactly like that. HP cartridges can and do expire, and printers will refuse to work with them even though they are still full and functional.


I have an HP printer/scanner from ~2007 and when it eventually dies I plan to replace it with a similar unit of the same vintage, because it seems the ink shenanigans have only gotten worse with newer technology. I can at least still buy 3rd-party refilled cartridges online without worrying about them getting deactivated.

My dad's printer is affected by this news, and between this and other recent issues it's having I doubt he'll ever buy a new HP printer again. He's been a lifelong (dare I say lifetime) customer since buying his HP 12C calculator in the 80s, and has owned only HP printers since his first DeskJet 697c in '96.


>I plan to replace it with a similar unit of the same vintage

Buy a non-shit brand that doesn't connect to the internet, eg. something from Brother without internet connectivity.


My recent experience with Brother was decidedly shitty: an inkjet printer that died after a few months.

On the other hand, I have a Brother laser printer that's still working after 17 years - and they still manufacture toner cartridges for it. (It's so old that it has a parallel port[1] in addition to a USB port.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_port


The one I have sets up its own wireless network which is definitely a security risk, but it doesn't connect to my LAN or the internet. I've seen newer ones that do connect to the internet and it only seems like trouble.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago because I found an identical printer at a thrift store for $4. I didn't get it but thought it would be nice to be able to keep using my stash of 3rd-party cartridges.


Also, forgot you mentioned Brother. I decided not to get another yet printer because I already have a spare Brother MFC with just USB and parallel connections. I've had worse experiences with Brother software than HP, but it still seems to work with my computer.

I also have a dot matrix printer with enough ribbon to last me a decade or so. So I really don't need to look for another printer for a while.


The problem is that in the modern world, a printer needs some sort of net connection, even if just to the local router. People aren't just printing from their computers; they need to print from their tablets and phones too.


I'll have to check, but I don't think mine is connected to the router at all. Pretty sure it sets up its own ad-hoc network for wireless printing, which I would imagine has its own vulnerabilities but at least requires an attacker to be physically trespassing on my property. :-)


Well sure, if you want to print wirelessly, you're going to need wireless (LAN is enough, no need for WAN though) :)


I always put our printers on a separate vlan that only accepts connections from our primary vlan. No magic firmware updates anymore.


Second that, owned several Brother things, never had trouble or any shenanigans like HP does.


To be fair, the 12C is pretty amazing.

I've got a couple of pre-2008 HP scanners and laser printers that I intend to keep going as long as at all possible, because the alternatives are just so horrible. Fortunately, they're pretty repairable, and all the consumables are still reasonable. And, frankly, I don't print that much any more. SCSI is getting slightly more interesting to support, but not unreasonable.


Agreed on the 12C, I hope to inherit that someday.

That first DeskJet lasted us around a decade until we replaced it with a couple of DeskJet 3500s that didn't need a parallel port and were cheaper than new ink. I still have one of those squirreled away just in case.

Those printers are refreshingly simple, with no screen or wifi and only one button (power) and one port (USB).


Just make sure to change the batteries periodically in that 12C. About the only thing I've found that can kill an old school (pre-2008) 12C (and the 16C and the rest of the series) is leaking batteries.


I have a relatively new printer and it accepts cartridges from whatever I happen to click on Amazon, no problemo. I think it's just shittiness unique to HP (maybe some other brands?) - avoiding them would avoid the trouble.


Yes but that's not really the case here


It's important as HP has done it before and will do it again. This is just a new variation of that same mentality.

Fool me twice, can't get fooled again except ink.


>Fool me twice, can't get fooled again except ink.

This is a common saying in Texas, apparently.


> It's not like HP can revoke a digital license to all of the ink I've already received.

Except they’ve done exactly that. Twice. Issues as “security” updates no less.


well they were securing their future revenue streams, so accurate just not the reasonable interpretation.


> It's not like HP can revoke a digital license to all of the ink I've already received.

It is exactly like that. If you unenroll a printer from Instant Ink, it will no longer accept the cartridges provided under that program.

I use the service and like it - for photo prints, where the per-page pricing model works in my favor; for documents, I have a monochrome laser. But outside my specific and very narrow use case, it is a terrible deal.


Hp can revoke that liscense, though. They put drm chips in the cartridge and your printer will refuse to work with them.


They've made the thing more complicated than a phone plan. So before you print something, you have to remember how many pages you have printed this month, plus the rolled over pages from last month and how long before they expire, and if you are going to go over, you have to change your plan instead of just going over because the overage rate is absurd (like, more expensive than going to a print shop). How is anyone supposed to get work done when printing is this complicated?

Given that I am not that heavy of a print user, I recently opted for the $300 Canon G7020 refillable inkjet over a color laser. The EPSON EcoTanks also looked good, but I think the G7020 included two extra, full bottles of black ink, plus the initial set of CMYB. The initial bottles are full-size, however, about 1/6 of the ink disappears on setup as it fills the tubing and print heads inside the printer.

The only catch I have heard with this printer is that apparently the waste ink absorber (non-replaceable) can fill after a few years of use, shortening lifespan. However, the print heads are replaceable which is nice compared to the EcoTank line. (In a refillable, the print heads look like cartridges, but instead of ink, they have a port that connects to the tanks). The setup (AirPrint) works great and the only issue I have had is that the old-school LCD screen is impossible to read without a lot of lighting.


>apparently the waste ink absorber (non-replaceable) can fill after a few years of use, shortening lifespan.

That is true, and correct for many Epson printers in my experience too. There's a program to reset the printed pages counter, AntiPampers, which makes a paperweight printer return to work for many years instead of having to deal with planned obsolescence, which that definitely is - entirely on purpose from a customer view. Printers market, inkjets in particular for their very low initial cost, have a lot of shady if not straight criminal practices that unfortunately are overlooked.


I bought a new ink absorber when I got the error message on my Epson printer. Turns out the absorber is just a dumb piece of plastic and foam and the printer actually simply keeping a counter of how many pages has been printed and pop up the error when the counter exceeds certain threshold (the old absorber was still in a good shape). Simply resetting the counter with some apps clear the warning.


I bought a different model of Canon's G line for this exact reason. They cost more than a typical entry level inkjet, but not much more than a single replacement of each color cartridge.


Do customers have any legal recourse here? They pretty clearly advertised "Print free for life". Even if its a case of fine print saying they can change the deal, surely the advertising would be considered misleading from a legal and/or attorney general's perspective.


They have this nice line in their TOS:

> LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY AND REMEDIES. IF YOU ARE IN ANY WAY DISSATISFIED WITH THE INSTANT INK SERVICE OR ANY PART THEREOF INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, AN INSTANT INK PROGRAM OR THE SITE, YOUR SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE REMEDY IS TO DISCONTINUE USING THE INSTANT INK SERVICE AND/OR THE APPLICABLE INSTANT INK PROGRAM.

I had no idea you could have a contract that says, "if you don't like how we fulfilled the contract all you are allowed to do is go away, even if we burn your house down."

https://instantink.hpconnected.com/us/en/terms


"I had no idea you could have a contract that says, "if you don't like how we fulfilled the contract all you are allowed to do is go away, even if we burn your house down.""

You can't.

Obviously, companies don't like to be sued. What a lot of the tech industry and Silicon Valley has been doing lately is trying to write up their Terms of Service to make it so difficult to initiate any sort of proceedings, or at least appear to be so difficult to initiate any sort of proceedings, that nobody actually will.

The risk of this, though, is that if they act so egregiously that somebody actually does get angry enough to break through the activation energy necessary to start something, that it will be both larger and worse than if they had a more conventional approach. Larger in that larger groups of people may break through at once, especially once someone blazes a trail. It's like raising a dam without fixing underlying issues with water management; it may put off the day you have problems, but when the catastrophe hits it'll be even larger.

A perfect approach for a short-term-focused modern company, no?

That clause is meant to convince you there's nothing you can do. But if someone does file a class-action suit, there's a very good chance the judge will not look favorably upon such a clause at all, and that'll get factored into any damage awards.

Personally I think the expected value of this particular shenanigan is quite negative and I think a lot of companies are going to bitten by it in the next decade... but I have a long term perspective, personally.



A contract can say whatever you want. That doesn't necessarily make it legally enforceable.


Right, for example, ATT got stung for calling a cell plan "unlimited" in which a reasonable person would apply the dictionary meaning to that word but be wrong; thus deceptive practice.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/02/att-loses-key-ru...


I'm dissatisfied with the service. I dissatisfied that they broke their contact. Remedy is either specific performance or pay the value of the contract ($1/month x N years, for a reasonable N)


The legal recourse is a class action lawsuit that 3-5 years from now would result in lawyers getting $X million dollars and customers getting something like a $20 voucher for replacement cartridges.


I would be happy for the lawyers to get $X million dollars if it smacks HP on the nose. I suppose one's take on "but the lawyers get all the class action money!" depends on whether one is looking to be made whole (good luck with that), or to punish the company. I tend toward the latter: the whole company can look over their shoulder the next time such jackassery comes up for discussion.


Except they have their own legal team already, and probably budget the incremental cost of additional legal needs for something like this into their product costs. Even if that wasn't the case, a settlement like this sort of coupon, which is common, simply helps them keep more of the customers they cheated. I can't think of many class action lawsuits around this sort of activity where the company was actually harmed by the outcome in any way that would have changed its behavior.


They have a legal team, but they will hire out the actual litigation to lawyers experienced with court. Most companies don't have that experience on staff. Plus the lawsuit goes into the SEC filings so potential investors know of the risk of losing.

Even if they win in court it will cost them a ton of money.


This is nothing for a big company, they'll just pour insignificant amount of money (to them) until it goes away. For a consumer this is a huge waste of time and money for no benefit. Only thing you can do is take your money elsewhere - stop supporting companies who do these kind of things and make sure that all your friends know about this.


Probably still worthwhile because it means HP losing the $X million


Not if they have anticipated the cost and determine that $Y additional revenue minute $X legal costs is still > 0


Still better if they end up with $Y - $X not the full $Y.


I'm not saying don't sue. I'm saying it won't stop this type of behavior.


My initial thought here would be to sue in small claims court for (based on the new pricing) $0.99/mo × expected lifespan. A small claims judge is likely to be sympathetic given the extremely straightforward advertising, and it would cost HP more to send someone out than to just pay the lump sum.


I like it. And if I'd fallen for this scam, I'm pretty sure I'd be pissed enough to do that.


Hell, I would even set up a website with instructions and premade exhibits - give it a catchy name like sueHPinSmallClaims dotcom - and encourage everyone to use it, I'd be so indignant.


Businesses own this country so it all boils down to if you have enough financial resources to battle these things out in court. Most people don't care enough or have enough resources to legally fight, effectively nullifying their rights.

There is a direct correlation to wealth and rights in this country. Language really has no meaning anymore.


>There is a direct correlation to wealth and rights in this country. Language really has no meaning anymore.

There is a useful counter correlation in that it's a lot more costly for a wealthy entity to fight thousands on tiny lawsuits for a few hundred dollars each, all over the country, than it is for these suits to be filed, especially when almost every court proceeding is virtual.


It is still going to be a small drop in a bucket, a mild inconvenience and a lot of hassle for an individual. Would you trade few weeks of your life to fight such battle? Will the satisfaction be comparable to satisfaction coming from achieving something productive? I think for all this time you'd have your life filled with bitterness. It's better to take your money elsewhere and spend time on something productive! You can also think about it as cost of learning about evil companies and their practices.


This would be ideal for small claims court. Still takes some resources and time, but minimal compared to a regular lawsuit.


That's my train of thought as well, but my guess is that they did the math and they know that there isn't enough money at 0.99$/month to make it worth a class action lawsuit.

As always raise awareness with your friends and family not to buy HP's garbage, Epson pulls the same shady practices as far as I know.

When possible, buy a laser printer and just don't give any of them more money.


My last company, a multi-billion dollar company decided to scrap printers altogether. Anything special is ordered out. The exception is the Finance team which has two very tiny laser printers.


I thought the go "paperless" push died a decade ago, but maybe not.


Not a class action but given the smallish $ per user I could see this being effectively pursued with the seller and if that doesn’t work through small claims court, at least in places like the UK/EU.

This is a change to the functionality of the printer post sale, and that tends to be viewed as an unreasonable action and one where one sided user agreements can be read by the courts as unfair to the consumer.

The important point is the the printer no longer works as advertised and as a starting point this is guaranteed in European law for six years after purchase. (https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/shopping/gua...).


if it's $1 per month and the user is 20 I suppose that implies a value of $624 for that user's expected lifetime. arguably.

In UK can you also get your money back for filing fees etc. if you win?


Small claims court. Add up the total costs for the rest of your life (at 15 pages per) and sue them for that. Then have as many un-busy people that you know do the same thing.

I know people who managed to get around $5000 when Equifax leaked their data. They just added up the monthly cost of the most expensive credit monitoring that they could find for the next decade and sued for that amount (then kept the money and didn't bother with the monitoring).

It's honestly not very difficult to file and right now the meeting is virtual so you barely have to put in any effort (with the downside that in the past you had a large chance the other party wouldn't bother showing up and you'd win by default).


I think this may be the case of "too big too fail", that is law does not apply to large companies because they can easily wiggle their way out of anything by pouring money at lawyers or they can stop supporting political party or individual politicians if they won't get their way.


Small claims court would likely get you your money back


Sure, but that's an ad-hoc solution to a systemic problem. I think we need a change to consumer contract/ToS laws.

I remember a few years ago Amazon Prime went from having $3.99 next-day shipping to suddenly charging up to $11.99 for it on one package I ordered. I knew when I signed up, the $3.99 price tag was advertised so I went digging: sure enough, it was not longer advertised, and no longer in their ToS. So I went digging further on how they could do this without any sort of notice to customers. Here's what I found using the internet archive to trace ToS changes wherein Amazon incrementally removed rights & privileges:

--When I signed up for Prime, the $3.99 price was in the ToS. So was a provision that said Amazon would notify me of any changes to the ToS 30 days in advance.

--A year or so later, the ToS no longer had the 30 day notice provision, but the $3.99 was still there. However, now they no longer had to notify me of a change.

--Fast forward a little more, and Amazon was able to change its ToS unilaterally without any advance notice or notification, allowing me to be surprised when I was suddenly asked to pay 2-3x as much for the same service.


I’m sure the terms of service include binding arbitration, which always rules for the company.


Will never buy anything from HP again.

I owned and old used LaserJetII (with a duplexor) for years followed by an old used LaserJet 4-Plus (it was awesome!)that both were so reliable, and so Awesome, that I I bought an HP Photosmart color printer. What a mistake. One of those stupid two cartridge models that stopped printing as soon as one color ran out. Plugged heads all the time. Drove me crazy.

Dumped that for a Canon about eight years ago, which so far has been excellent.

The LaserJet 4 Plus finally wore out two years ago. I replaced it with one of those little Brother 2360s. It works fine. Faster to start up a print job than the HP was, but not as fast printing duplex as the HP. Probably faster in single sided.

The end point being, the old LaserJets were built back when HP had not yet lost its soul. The Photosmart Inkjet was the first generation of the "New HP".


I bought one of the page-wide officejet pro printers a while back. (X475DN?) It was amazing! No warm up, 1-2 sec. first page out, fast printing, low energy use. But if you didn't use all the colors on the whole page width at some point, it they would start to clog. Eventually it only printed black reliably, and all the other colors were clogged and useless. Then, like seemingly all modern HP printers, it developed a weird software or controller problem and had to be replaced.

Switched to a lexmark color laser which prints very well, doesn't produce a first page very quickly, but then it started having BSODs.

Replaced with monochrome laser printers (Samsung) and that has gone pretty well. I'm still nervous about HP being involved, but it seems to be Samsung's show with HP just doing the fulfillment.

Edit: just noticed that the HP Laserjet 4+ was introduced at $1,839 in 1994; about $3,230 today.


I so often read such dark/wierd news from IT companies which makes me wonder - if in any case did the person that developed this dark/crazy idea ever reads hn? If yes what do you feel? Did you every anticipate or think of some of the opinions expressed here?

Note this is not to insult - I genuinely want to know that other point of view. Thanks


I'm working on a product in my company that's doing something similar: we sell THING and supplies for THING

The cost for the supplies depend on the region your in. So we're setting it up that if you buy a THING in say US/Canada, you can only buy supplies from a reseller in US/Canada and not a cheaper one in Africa.

Why am I doing this? My wife lost her job due to COVID, and I'm the sole income earner right now. Once things recover I'll switch jobs.


Do you buy parts for the THING in cheaper regions? For example the components that make the THING were made in China or other country with cheap labour? If you say yes, then why do you think it is moral to remove such option from the consumer?


The THING and parts for THING are all custom made in China.

I don't think its moral, but I am stuck. My wife got laid off due to COVID and I need this job to support the family. I'm currently looking for another job.


And if someone finds a way around that arbitrary restriction, your company takes them to court for DMCA violation or hacking or something like that? Gotta love the modern world.


I doubt it's the work of one ruthless person. Presumably some team in Accounting was doing projections and concluded that it would cost less to burn their customers (especially if some willingly jumped into the flames and paid the buck a month). It seems to be a fairly common scenario that a Marketing dept. will launch something that is on shaky footing with both Legal and Accounting, and at some point will be scuttled / changed beyond recognition.


One of the key management tricks at any company is to compartmentalize the work enough such that no individual cog feels that they are doing anything wrong, regardless of the overall outcome. Companies also spend a lot of money on internal communication/propaganda to get employees in line. I'm sure the comp packages don't hurt either.


Last time I looked at printers I found no FOSS options. Most of the time, buying a whole new printer costs less than simply buying replacement ink. This is horrible for the environment. Are there _any_ alternatives in this space?


> Most of the time, buying a whole new printer costs less than simply buying replacement ink.

Any time printers are brought up, someone says this.

And every time, I feel I have to point out that the cartridges that come with a printer are starter cartridges. They contain significantly less ink/toner than a replacement cartridge. If you are buying a new printer rather than new cartridges, you are NOT saving money.

This is not HP-specific, either. AFAIK, every printer manufacturer does this. I have a Dell laser printer and I'm fairly certain that the toner cartridges that came with it are rated for 200 pages, while replacements are rated at 800 pages.


It used to be true, though. Back in 2004 or so you got full cartridges along with new printers, and the printer cost less than an ink set would. So a friend at the time would buy a new printer every time theirs ran out of ink. He had a leaning tower of printers in his closet (and about half a dozen drivers installed).

Later on they started including "starter cartridges" instead. (And even reduced those from 1/2 to 1/4 at some point)


> I feel I have to point out that the cartridges that come with a printer are starter cartridges. They contain significantly less ink/toner than a replacement cartridge.

Even accounting for that, I remember it was still cheaper to buy a new printer.


My brothers have all come with regular full cartridges


Yeah but those don't go for $25


> Most of the time, buying a whole new printer costs less than simply buying replacement ink.

Why do people always say this? You can't determine if that is actually cheaper unless you know how much ink the printer comes with. I am genuinely curious.


> buying a whole new printer costs less than simply buying replacement ink.

Because they sell the printer at a loss to get you to buy the ink, the ink is their real business. This is exactly why HP is so concerned with forcing you to buy only HP ink. See also razors and blades.

But I agree it would be nice to have some kind of FOSS printer without DRM etc. This came up recently on another HN post, and people had various hypotheses for why this hadn't happened, but I don't recall the article to find it now.


These are a decent alternative: https://epson.com/ecotank-ink-tank-printers. There is no DRM on liquid ink.


Those are nice if you have high volume printing needs, but at around $200 for the lowest end model, it will take a long time for most people to realize the value there.

Lots of people just need a few pages per month which is why the cheap cartridge printers are so popular and why a lot of people will just cope with HP's $0.99/ month.

I'm not keen on HPs deal here, but it would be difficult for many to justify that $200 up front cost when it'll take 10 years to recoup it and ink jets often don't last that long.


> but at around $200 for the lowest end model, it will take a long time for most people to realize the value there.

I'm not sure that's true. The cheaper printers people are buying are cheaper because the manufacturer makes it up on the egregiously priced ink.

It depends on how much printing you do, but I doubt it'll take you 10 years to recoup or longer than the life of the printer. Has anyone done any numbers?

How much are you paying for a cheap HP printer anyway? I don't buy em, I'm not sure what they go for. I bought a B&W Brother laser for ~200, and am happy with my purchase.


Get a laser printer.


I have one. The replacement cartridges are listed on Amazon for $96 and the printer (with ink) is $108.


The 'ink' (it's really toner) cartridges that come in new printers have a fraction of the levels in them as retail cartridges. They're referred to as 'starter kits' if you look in the small print. You're looking at a false comparison there.


That actually wasn't true when I bought a Canon MG6000-something. When the price of the printer went below the price of ink, I bought a second one and stuck it in the attic, which came in handy when the first one died. Both printers came with standard ink cartridges.

The HP laser printer I bought recently, on the other hand, did come with starter cartridges with a smaller amount of toner. My impression is that starter cartridges are more common with toner than ink.


It depends on the printer. I’ve had pretty good luck with brother laser printers coming with full toner cartridges in the past, although my understanding is on many modern models that isn’t the case anymore. You definitely have to read the fine print.


This is manufacturer specific. The Brother replacement cartridges are half the price of a new printer ($50/$100) and the replacements print ~3x the number of pages (2600) you get with the included cartridge.


Plus, the no-name toner cartridges work perfectly fine for Brother printers (I buy 2-4 per month for work). However, do not buy the non-brand drums, they are a waste of money; the genuine Brother drums last 4x longer.


I’m buying 2 black + 3 color cartridges for Brother for about 40 euro, sometime even less on sale


You can get 3rd party toner cartridges for a fraction of the price of official cartridges. Just get the model # for the cartridges and look for a supplier on Amazon who seems reputable and where the product gets good reviews.

In my case, I've been buying 3rd party toner cartridges for my parents' Canon D300 laser printer/copier for years. First through one company I found on the internet years ago and then, when they closed up shop, I found another on Amazon -- I paid $20 for the cartridge I bought this past May (the official cartridge is about $109).


The cartridges printers come with often have ~half the capacity of retail cartridges.


I haven't used up the starter cartridge in the printer I bought 10 years ago.

I'll be tempted to buy a new printer when it fades, to add duplex and get newer wifi.


Which is why I buy the Chinese cartridges from Amazon that are 1/4 the price and work just as well.


You can DIY refill toner.


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