02 November 2013

The Days of Fax and Mail are Numbered at IP Australia

No faxesIn an announcement published on 31 October 2013, IP Australia has indicated that within a few months it will no longer be accepting communications via email, fax, or via hard copy to the current Australia Post Lodgement Points.  Nor will it be accepting over-the-phone payments.

Specifically, the ‘assist’ email (i.e. ‘assist@ipaustralia.gov.au’) and phone payment service will cease in around February 2014, while fax and Australia Post Lodgement Points will no longer be available after a date in around June 2014.

IP Australia considers that these services and communications channels will no longer be required once the eServices platform is fully operational – which is currently scheduled to be by the end of this year.  Additionally, IP Australia is promising that it is ‘implementing a number of supporting infrastructure changes which will support continued access to the eServices platform even during planned maintenance and unscheduled outages.’

Personally, I think this is all very positive.  I sometimes wonder who, exactly, is still using fax transmission (other than the Japanese, who seem strangely wedded to it).  On the odd occasion I do receive a fax (as I did from a firm in the US the other day) I cannot help thinking that it probably came from a multi-function machine which could just as easily have scanned the document directly to a PDF email attachment – assuming it was not already available to the sender in electronic form.

The only benefit of fax over email is that you get a confirmation of transmission, although my experience is that this is not the same thing as a guarantee of actual delivery!  Standard internet email, of course, is a ‘best effort’ service which offers no guarantee of delivery, and is therefore not at all suitable for transmission of documents which absolutely must be received in order to meet a statutory deadline.

As for the Australia Post Lodgement Points, these were established in 2009-2010, when IP Australia closed its capital city sub-offices.  The ability to lodge documents in person, and receive a stamped receipt confirming the official filing date, may give some people a sense of added security.  However, it is an option which is only available to those within easy travelling distance of a lodgement point, and is of absolutely no assistance outside of business hours.

The eServices portal is in improvement on all of the existing lodgement mechanisms.  You are connected directly to IP Australia’s servers, and are able to upload documents in real time over a secure (SSL/TLS) connection.  You get an immediate confirmation of receipt as an assurance of the filing date.  The service is available 24/7.  Of course there is potential for technical problems (e.g. a major internet outage), but no delivery method can offer a 100% guarantee – even couriers are sometimes involved in traffic accidents!

Back in September 2010, I wondered whether

… once IP Australia has facilities enabling all transactions to be completed electronically, it will be possible to do away with state-based services altogether, along with all associated ‘official closures’?  Even with the provision of a state lodgement facility in Darwin, the current system discriminates against clients located outside of the state and territory capital cities.  In a country the size of Australia, this is hardly acceptable in this day and age …

That is one prediction I will be pleased to see fulfilled.

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