Someone using a fax machine

Farewell to the fax machine

Published: 13 January 2023
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Following our consultation last year, we’re confirming changes to our rules meaning telecoms providers will no longer be required to provide fax services to their customers.

Unless you’ve moved house or you’re a footballer’s agent – or indeed a footballer’s agent who’s moved house – then you might not have had much reason to use a fax machine in recent years.

The communications device – formally known as a facsimile machine – was once a regular feature in offices and, to a lesser extent, homes.

They worked by allowing users to send an exact copy (or a facsimile, hence the name) of a page of text or images to the recipient, using a telephone line to do so.

This is one of the reasons they were used in big-money transactions with tight deadlines, such as house sales or football transfers, as they enabled contracts to be exchanged quickly and accurately.

But as digital technology and broadband services have developed, the fax machine has been overtaken by email and document sharing software that offer the same or better functionality.

This is why we consulted on changing the rules that required telecoms firms to provide fax services.

What’s changing?

Under the universal service obligation (USO), phone services must be made available to people across the UK at an affordable price – until now, that has included fax services. There are two designated telecoms providers responsible for universal service in the UK – BT and KCOM (in the Hull area only).

We’re amending our rules to remove the requirement for BT and KCOM to provide fax services under the USO.

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.

Almost 20 years later, and the telecoms landscape has changed. Not only are alternatives to fax machines now more 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.

This change doesn’t mean fax services will stop working immediately, but current fax users should look for alternatives (such as email).

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