In recent years, QuickBooks Online (QBO) has consistently increased its subscription prices, a trend that has stirred discussions among its user base. Here is a price comparison between 2020 & 2024.

Easy Start Essential Plus
2020 $18 $35 $45
2024 $24 $54 $80
QBO price comparison between 2020 & 2024

This equates to an approximate increase of 33% for Easy Start, 54% for Essential, and 78% for Plus. As we continue in this blog, we will delve into the diverse reactions from the community, ranging from those who critique these hikes as excessive, to explanations from QBO itself justifying the need for these adjustments. This discussion sets the stage for a broader examination of the implications of these pricing strategies on both the market and individual users.

As QuickBooks Online (QBO) continues to adjust its pricing model, the vocal response from its user base has been impossible to ignore. Among the various concerns raised, three recurring themes stand out, each capturing a significant pain point affecting users across different sectors and scales of operation. These themes are not only reflective of the dissatisfaction with price increases but also encapsulate broader issues with service expectations and the perceived value of the product.

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1. Frequent Price Increases Without Perceived Improvements

Many users feel frustrated by the frequency of price hikes, which seem to occur every six months without corresponding improvements in the service. A recurring grievance centers around unresolved technical issues, such as the longstanding problems with printing checks, which have persisted for years without a fix. This issue is exemplified by a user’s exasperation: “Every six months they ask to pay more and they haven’t even fixed the print cheque problems in five years.” The sentiment reflects a broader concern that the cost increases are not justified by tangible enhancements in functionality or customer support, making the service feel less like a value-for-money proposition and more like a mandatory expense with diminishing returns.

2. Feeling of Entrapment

A significant number of comments reflect a feeling of entrapment, where users feel compelled to continue using QBO despite rising costs and dissatisfaction due to the lack of viable alternatives. This is particularly pronounced in rural or specialized business contexts where switching costs, in terms of both time and compatibility with existing systems, are prohibitively high. For example, one user noted the difficulty of finding a compatible CPA or alternative software solution in a rural setting, underscoring the lack of flexibility: “I’m torn, myself. I still have QB Desktop 2017…They only support using QB or QBO, and not the other online options out there.” This theme of entrapment is exacerbated by the market dominance of Intuit, leaving users with few alternatives that match up in terms of features or widespread professional acceptance.

3. Market Dominance and Ethical Concerns

The third theme involves ethical concerns regarding how QBO utilizes its market dominance to enforce price increases. Users compare these tactics unfavorably to other industries where companies with significant market share exploit their position to increase prices unreasonably. One poignant critique compares QBO’s pricing strategy to infamous price gouging in the pharmaceutical industry, highlighting a perception of unethical business practices: “Everyone relies on QB, they were already making a healthy profit, and suddenly this unscrupulous company with a near monopoly quadruples their pricing model… Sounds a whole lot like they hired a MARTIN SHKRELI clone to advise on price gouging.”

Each of these themes not only paints a picture of a customer base grappling with rising costs but also reflects deeper issues of trust, value, and corporate responsibility. As we proceed, these pain points will be crucial in understanding the broader implications of QBO’s pricing strategy on its user community.

QuickBooks Online (QBO) has provided a detailed explanation for their recent pricing increases, which can be analyzed under a few key points:

QBO’s Justification for Price Increases

QBO explains that the price adjustments are linked to significant improvements aimed at enhancing the platform’s functionality and supporting small business growth. They cite the introduction of new features such as SmartScan™, which checks VAT for common errors, automated mileage tracking for business travel, and new banking connections that offer greater security and reduce manual data entry. These innovations, they argue, are designed to improve the overall user experience and efficiency, thereby justifying the higher costs.

Addressing User Concerns

While QBO outlines the benefits of these new features, this may not fully align with the frustrations expressed by users, particularly those who face unresolved issues:

  • Persistent Problems:

Users who have experienced ongoing technical issues, like problems with printing checks, may find the mention of new features irrelevant if their fundamental needs are not being met.

  • Perceived Value:

There is a disconnect between the introduction of new features and the actual utility perceived by the users, especially if these features do not address the core functionalities that need improvement.

Market Dominance and Ethical Pricing

QBO does not directly address concerns regarding its market dominance and the ethical implications of its pricing strategy. This omission is significant given the criticism about QBO leveraging its market position to justify price increases. The lack of acknowledgment of these concerns might reinforce perceptions of QBO as being indifferent to the financial strain these increases place on small businesses.

Communication and Transparency

QBO states that they will continue to provide advance notice for any upcoming price changes and maintain communication through their updates. However, this procedural transparency does not necessarily address the deeper concerns about affordability and the necessity of the increases.

Exploring Both Perspectives

In concluding our exploration of QuickBooks Online’s (QBO) price increases, it’s clear that the topic is multifaceted, with valid points raised on both sides. While QBO’s commitment to enhancing their platform through technological innovations and new features is commendable, it is also evident that these changes have not universally met the expectations of their diverse user base. The introduction of features like SmartScan™ and improved banking connections are indeed beneficial, but they may not directly address the core issues that long-time users continue to face, such as unresolved technical problems and basic functionality concerns.

Moreover, the sense of entrapment felt by users, particularly those in specialized or rural markets, and the ethical concerns regarding QBO’s use of its market dominance to enforce price increases are significant. These aspects suggest a need for a more balanced approach that considers the impact of pricing strategies not just on business growth but also on customer retention and satisfaction.

Ultimately, while price increases are a reality in a dynamic market landscape, they must be paralleled by noticeable improvements in service quality and customer support. Companies like QBO need to ensure that their pricing strategies align closely with user feedback and the actual value delivered. Moving forward, it would be beneficial for QBO to engage more transparently and empathetically with its user community, addressing specific issues and criticisms openly to foster trust and loyalty.

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Pay Less Tax

A great small business tax accountant does more than just measure value, they create it. At CPA4IT our goal is to save you substantially more than it costs you for our services. Over the last 30 years we have developed tax strategies designed to help you keep more of your hard earned money. If you would like to learn how we can help you pay less tax, simply download our FREE Guide to Pay Less Tax.