In a recent issue of the email newsletter TechnoLawyer Answers, a lawyer asked about the easiest way to transition from a physical fax machine to a service that delivers faxes by email. Harold Burstyn, a lawyer and computer science professor, recommended the free version of eFax. This surprised me, primarily because I thought eFax no longer offered a free version.

I was wrong about that. Turns out, there is a free version. But you would be hard pressed to know it from the eFax website. Go ahead, try to find any reference to it. From the eFax home page, click on “Fax Plans” and just two are listed, both paid. Click on “Pricing” and, again, there is no mention of a free plan. Click on “Get Started,” and you are led through a couple screens that collect your information and then present with a page in which you need to provide your credit card information in order to activate your account.

As if it were the Yeti of fax plans, I was able to confirm the elusive free plan only by reading through the site’s FAQ, which does describe a plan called ‘eFax Free.” Then, to locate it, I went to the eFax site map and found the link to eFax Free.

Finally having found it, however, I could quickly see that the free plan is not practical for a lawyer. You cannot send any outgoing faxes and you can receive only 10 fax pages a month.

In the event you receive more than ten (10) fax pages in any thirty (30) day period, the Company, in its sole discretion, may offer to upgrade you to an eFax Pro or eFax Plus account or may terminate or suspend your eFax Free account with or without notice.

What would be the point of a lawyer getting a fax plan that does not allow you to send faxes and that penalizes you for receiving them?

My Switch from eFax to Maxemail

It was these kinds of tactics that caused me to switch from eFax to Maxemail more than a decade ago. I never looked back. Let me recount why I switched.

Way back in 2003, I had a bad customer service experience with eFax, which I described in a blog post at the time. Back then, I had one of those free accounts. Without notifying me, eFax changed the terms of my account to limit the number of pages I could receive. When I received an unsolicited advertising fax that put me over the limit, eFax said I either had to sign up for a paid account or be suspended. When I called customer service to explain that the fax was unsolicited, he dismissed my complaint and justified the junk faxes as necessary to support the free service.

With Maxemail, I have never had a single problem of any kind. On top of that, Maxemail is cheaper than eFax. The standard monthly subscription for Maxemail is $9.95, which includes 250 incoming and 100 outgoing fax pages. The standard monthly eFax price is $16.95, which includes 150 incoming and 150 outgoing pages. That’s a difference of $7 a month. eFax also offers an option of a one-time annual payment of $169.50, which works out to $14.13 a month, still more than Maxemail. (Both services require a $10 set-up fee.)

Maxemail also offers a “lite” plan that is $24 a year and includes 100 incoming fax pages per month. With this plan, outgoing faxes are 10 cents a page.

In terms of features, the two services largely parallel each other. eFax has an option for adding a signature to a fax, which Maxemail does not have. Maxemail allows you to receive voice messages by email, a feature eFax lacks. Both services allow you to fax by email or from an iOS device. eFax also can be used on an Android device.

My Second Bad Experience with eFax

As I said earlier, 11 years ago, I had a bad customer service experience with eFax. Earlier this year, I had another.

One day I was facing a deadline and had to submit the document by fax. I tried once, then twice to send it via Maxemail, but I kept receiving an error message. Desperate and frustrated, I searched Google for other fax services and saw eFax was offering a 30-day free trial. I signed up and tried to send the fax through eFax. Again, no go.

Finally I called Maxemail support — which I should have done in the first place — and someone there was able to readily help me diagnose the problem. As it turned out, the PDF file I was attempting to upload was corrupted. Once I created a new PDF, the fax went through without a hitch.

Meanwhile, I returned to eFax and started a chat session with a customer service rep to cancel my 30-day free trial before it expired. Instead of help cancelling my  account, what I got was the upsell — or, maybe I should say, the downsell, because the price kept coming down.

Sign up now, the rep said, and we’ll lower the monthly price from $16.95 to $12.95. When I didn’t bite at that, he offered me a plan where I’d pay $50 a year and then 15 cents a page in excess of 30 pages a month. All the while, all I wanted to do was to close my account.

Once again, I was not happy with my treatment by eFax customer service. If you’re at all curious to read the chat transcript, I’ve embedded it below. And if you’re in the market for a fax service, I recommend Maxemail.

  • I’m still trying to figure out why so many companies still insist on using fax. Sure we have some companies that insist on sending faxes and so people get by with e-fax services. But what is keeping faxes alive in the first place, especially since they are not really any more secure than sending by e-mail with everyone receiving faxes by e-mail anyway? I’m really curious because I made a point when I first started my practice that I was not going to ever sign up for a fax service because fax numbers are ancient and no longer needed.

    That being said, I really appreciate knowing that there is an option through Maxemail for a reasonably priced basic plan that charges 10 cents a page to send. I actually tried going to Staples and Fedex Office over a year ago when I had to send a fax to a police department out of county for rush service of a restraining order and they were charging something like $1 per page to send a fax. If I do ever get into the situation again where I need to send a fax then that might make sense to me.

  • Marc

    Comparing a free service with a service that you pay for seems like comparing apples and oranges.

  • Leo

    Customers frustrations with eFax’s cancellation process has been well documented. Unfortunately, it seems that more companies, not less, won’t let you cancel trials without putting you through a rigorous upselling process. MaxEmail is a good service- especially if you want a service that is HIPAA compliant and offers an iOS app- but there are a bunch of services that offer similar or better pricing and features. Here is our review page of MaxEmail: that includes comparisons to similar online fax plans. We didn’t include the $24/ year plan, because you can only get a number with an 815 area code with that plan.

    Another thing people should realize when they are looking for an online fax service is that j2 Global (owner of eFax) owns a lot of other brands, so even though the names of the services and the pricing options are different, the platform is the same. For example, eFax, MyFax and MetroFax all now have the exact same interface. Only difference is that eFax will let you use the e-signature feature, while it’s turned off in the others. If you like eFax’s interface, then staying within the j2 Global brand family, but looking for better pricing makes sense. If you don’t like their platform or business practices, you might want to look for independent companies.

  • Stephanie

    Do you have any experience with ringcentral? Overall, I am happy with the $9.99 monthly service. My only issue is that it continues to convert legal size to letter size.

  • Leo

    Stephanie- RingCentral is an excellent service. They recently added a HIPAA Conduit feature in their settings that allows users to use the service and remain HIPAA compliant. One thing to remember, however, is that turning on HIPAA compliance with a fax service means that they won’t send you the faxes as email attachments (because that would automatically make the service not HIPAA compliant). Instead, you’ll receive a notification that you’ve received the fax and then you can view it on your browser in your account. You can also view the faxes on the smartphone apps

    The only feature RingCentral doesn’t offer (that they should) is e-signing. They used to offer a way to do this through their downloadable soft phone, but it was eliminated with a later release. It wasn’t exactly intuitive, so their customers probably didn’t use it. Here is the FindAFax review and comparison of RingCentral:

    Hope that helps.

  • Jorge

    I am very satisfied with Online Fax Services from Popfax, it is very easy to use, professional, and very fast. And recently i installed their application for android on my phone and I have all I need now, especially their Offline mood, I can queue my faxes in the underground on my way to work every morning and send them as soon as i get internet connection.
    Also Popfax allows to sign faxes online in a few seconds taking Online Faxing to the next level.

  • lerca88

    I would like to recommend online faxing from Popfax-, it works great and I have never had any problems with it. I also found Popfax cheaper compare with other online fax providers.

  • Actually I totally agree with Mark,You compare uncomparablem guys

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