I just found out the hard way that eFax will cut off your free account without notice if you receive more than the 10-pages of inbound-faxes-per-month rule for free accounts. Of course, they are hoping you will upgrade to a paid account, but this is the worst implementation of a freemium business model I think I have ever seen.

Reality is, I have been considering the benefits of upgrading my account for a month or so.  I knew my usage was going up, but if I ever agreed to the 10-pages-inbound-or-else rule in their boilerplate, I had forgotten it.  I had no idea eFax would not only cut off my account, but they would do it without any notice or warning or even as much as a confirmation that they did inactivate my account.  I likely would have upgraded if I had some indication I would lose my account if I didn’t.

Not anymore.

I found this out because I tried to fax myself a document and the number didn’t work.  When I tried to login, my account had been disabled (see screenshot). Then, I went to their online chat and the best part is, the eFax employee I chatted with clearly didn’t care that they left me in the lurch, and since he is in “sales”, he pushed me off to the free email support channel as fast as he could.

Here’s my chat transcript with eFax this afternoon:

Please wait for a site operator to respond. You are currently number 1 of 1 in the queue. Thank you for your patience.
You are now chatting with ‘Lee’
Lee: Welcome to our sales chat. How may I help you?
RM (me)*: I have the efax number 253-559-xxxx*. I just called it and it doesn’t work. I just tried to log in and it says I have the wrong information. What gives?
RM (me): I just checked my email and received no notice anything was changing with my account.
Lee: what is your email on file
RM (me): one sec
RM (me): ro…………..x@gmail.com*
Lee: its a free account
Lee: With our free service you will receive a randomly assigned, non-local number and are limited to only 10 pages of inbound faxes a month.  Anything over the 10 will cancel the account.  You are not able to send with the free accounts it is just for receiving faxes.  You will also need additional software to view the faxes; they DO NOT come in a PDF format.   Also these numbers are subject to recall at any time.   If a paid user wants your number or if we need to recall numbers in the area code you were assigned we will pull them off of your free account.  These free accounts are not meant for long term use and they will eventually be closed out.
RM (me): So, what are you telling me?
Lee: its inactive
Lee: you can only get it back if you upgrade to a paid account
RM (me): OK, do you know why it has been inactivated?
Lee: that is how our free accounts are structured
RM (me): (you gave me several things in that paragraph, I just want to be sure I understand)
Lee: if you want to know you can email support
Lee: freehelp@mail.efax.com
Lee: i have no access
Lee: i am in the sales team
Lee: for new paid accounts
RM (me): Is it policy to inactivate accounts without any notice other than maybe fine-print that I don’t recall reading when I signed up?
RM (me): …Just cut off the account?
Lee: there is a disclaimer when you open the account
Lee: i dont know how many notifications you get
Lee: you can email them
RM (me): For the record, I am unhappy about this and though I would have likely upgraded if I was notified, I doubt it.
RM (me): You might have an easier job upgrading accounts if this wasn’t how the policy worked… just sayin.
Lee: our free accounts were not meant to be free forever
RM (me): I don’t have a problem with that. Don’t cut off my account without giving me some notice.
RM (me): I have no idea how long my account has been inactive, or how many faxes I didn’t receive. I likely would have upgraded if I knew there was a potential service interruption.
RM (me): I received absolutely no notice whatsoever that this was going to happen or that it did happen.
Lee: i can’t reactivate a free account
Lee: ifyou have questions you can email support
RM (me): I’m not asking you to reactivate this account as a free account. It’s clear you have other things to do… but just a note that it’s generally easier to upgrade a customer when they’re happy with your service, not after you’ve burned your bridge with them and cut-off their service without notice thanks to the policy that was mentioned in the “disclaimer” when they opened the account. Thanks, but no thanks.
Interestingly, epinions has some interesting writeups about eFax, including this tid-bit from vemartin, a paying customer likewise frustrated with eFax’s changing rules and inability to remember what customer service actually means:
….Essentially, this means the customer must follow the ever-changing rules to perfection, while they [eFax], on the other hand, can operate on a whim; i.e., terminate your account without warning and assign your number to another customer, change the monthly page receiving limits, etc. Imagine that someone (without my knowledge) decides to send me a fax on the very last day of the billing month, and push my page count to 140 pages. Horrors! With this policy, eFax could decide that I am in “violation” and suspend my account without warning, or automatically debit my account at 15 cents per page. Imagine what a catastrophe it could be if confidential information is compromised because your fax number was unceremoniously terminated and reassigned to another user, simply because eFax felt like it. They should change the term “Fair Use” to “Fair Game” because it’s beginning to feel pretty vulnerable in the world of eFax. I’m not certain how much longer I’ll hang out in the jungle.
As for me, I can’t wait for Google Voice to support faxing fast enough now.  Internet faxing should be a solved problem by now. *sigh*
* changed to protect privacy
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