Is it time to retire your fax machine?

You may have heard that Ofcom (the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on every day) is proposing changes to the rules which could render the fax machine obsolete.

Parliament has recently removed fax services from the USO (Universal Service Obligation) legislation. (The USO ensures that a minimum set of telephony services are available at an affordable price to people across the UK.)

The consultation, which is running from 1st November to 1st December 2022, proposes that the fax be removed from the USO for BT (UK communications and IT services provider) and KCOM (based mainly around the Hull area). 

What does this mean?

The current USO was set out in 2003 when fax machines were widely used and before email and instant messaging were used everywhere. At that time, it was important for BT and KCOM to provide fax services.  Almost 20 years later the migration of telephone networks to internet protocol (IP) technology means that fax machines can no longer be guaranteed to work in the same way.  However, Ofcom believe that the use of fax machines in the UK is now limited and there are a range of free, or low-cost alternatives available.

Ms Nadine Dorries – Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) wrote in her statement to House of Commons on 5 September 2022:

“Ofcom noted the low usage of fax, as well as the availability of reliable alternatives (many of which are free of charge). DCMS officials conducted further investigations with the healthcare, tourism, legal, and energy sectors, and found that use of fax was minimal and alternatives are being sought where its use still continues.”

You may wish to re-evaluate if and when you use your fax machine (if you still have one!) and whether you need to retire your machine in favour of the emerging technologies.

Online fax services, (fax apps) are convenient to use, easier to work than a physical fax machine, and sometimes come with added bonuses, such as digital signature tools or the ability to send a fax by sending an email.