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.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.