Ofcom pulls the plug on faxes – what does it mean for conveyancers?

Current telecom rules require telecoms providers to offer a fax service. The current Universal Service Obligation (USO) was set out in 2003 when fax machines were more prevalent than today. Email and instant messaging were not as ubiquitous as they are now, so it was important that telecoms providers offered a fax service.

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Ofcom has proposed that these rules should be updated and the requirement to provide tax services should be removed. The regulator carried out a consultation on this last year and concluded it is appropriate to remove the fax from the USO as its use is now limited.

How might this affect conveyancers?

New data suggests that this would have a significant impact on conveyancing firms. In a poll carried out by Today’s Conveyancer, almost 2 in 5, or 37%, responded that the fax remains an important method of communication and that their firm still uses the fax on a regular basis. One respondent to the survey suggested the fax is still needed for TA13 replies whilst others reported that some lenders still require Certificates of Title to be faxed. Others felt it was time we stopped using this archaic method and that faxes should become a thing of the past.

Tom Bailey, Managing Partner at Post Partner argued that although the fax was a great invention, modern technology is far superior. He compared the move away from the fax in favour of more modern methods to the move from horse and cart to car. When the fax arrived in offices and homes in 1964, it had many appealing features, such as unprecedented speed, wide legal acceptance as well as international reach. It also paved the way for the innovations we have available today, such as digital signatures and online scanning solutions, which have revolutionised how we work. Many believe we should embrace these modern communication methods, but for some conveyancing solicitors, the fax still holds its appeal.

Why are so many conveyancers reluctant to change?

Why does the fax remain the communication method of choice for so many conveyancing firms? Many still consider it to be faster and more secure than other methods and most importantly, a faxed document is a legal document. This is not the case for email. The undeniable reliability and security the fax offers is one of the main reasons many conveyancing solicitors still prefer it. The need to send secure documents quickly is another reason, as this speeds up the conveyancing process considerably, meaning high customer satisfaction and positive feedback. Whilst many firms such as https://www.samconveyancing.co.uk have embraced current technology, others are catching up.

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As in many other sectors, it can be hard to drive change in the legal industry and busy law firms are reluctant to move away from the fax machine. They don’t wish to spend limited resources on change management, preferring to focus on fee-earning work. They now need to take a longer-term view of the situation and realise that removing reliance on the fax will lead to a reduction in errors and an increase in compliance, freeing up more time for fee-earning work.

Ofcom’s consultation on removing fax from the USO on telecoms providers is inviting responses until 1st December.

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