Normally on this blog, we're always talking about new technology (and how the law is falling behind). So today's post is a bit different because we're talking about old technology.  The humble fax machine.  A few weeks ago the BBC ran an article about the Japanese love affair with the fax machine, which has been consigned to the archives in most countries.  One of the final uses of the fax in the UK was to receive motor insurance details when buying a new car and needing to tax it; now you can do that online. Ofcom has noticed, because it has now issued a proposal to remove faxes from the universal service obligation. This would mean that telecoms providers will no longer be required to provide fax services under the universal service obligation (USO). 

The USO is a set of rules that makes sure phone services are available to people across the UK at an affordable price. There are two designated telecoms providers responsible for universal service in the UK – BT and KCOM (in the Hull area only).  

The current USO was set out in 2003, when fax machines were more prevalent and email and instant messaging were less ubiquitous. So, at that time it was important the USO required BT and KCOM to provide fax services. 

Clearly, the telecoms landscape has now changed. Not only are alternatives to fax machines now widely available, migration of telephone networks to internet protocol (IP) technology means fax services can no longer be guaranteed to work in the same way. 

Ofcom has consulted on this before and considered it was appropriate for fax to be removed from the USO, given its limited ongoing use, as well as the fact that developments in technology now mean there various alternatives available for people to use.  

This second consultation on its implementation of the change ends on 1 December 2022 and it expects to publish a statement in early 2023.  

You may be thinking you got rid of your fax machines years ago so why is this relevant.  But have you checked your standard contracts recently? If your contractual notice clauses still include a reference to fax, you might want to update them.