Fax activity reports: to toss or not to toss?

I’m the office manager of a mid-sized business. I tend to be overly cautious (my coworkers call it “covering my rear”), which is probably why I save all of those printouts the fax machine spits out showing what faxes were sent when. Am I a freak, and should I should just toss them?

Ah, the oft-discarded or recycled fax activity report, also known as the communication journal. These records, generated automatically or on demand by a fax machine, typically list the date and time each fax was sent, how many pages it was, how long it took to send and the fax number to which it went. I can’t speak to whether you’re a freak or not, but, depending on the type of business in question, it’s actually not a bad idea to save those reports.

A fax activity report, especially when combined with phone company records, can be used to help prove that a fax went through correctly at a particular time. For example, there was a court case in 1999 in which a renter of a commercial property claimed to have faxed his landlord just before the deadline to extend his lease, but the landlord said he never got it and terminated the contract. The court believed the activity report and the renter prevailed, and then saw the judgment reversed on appeal before finally winning in state Supreme Court. (Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary. You might be able to show that the fact arrived at its destination, but not that it got to the intended person. The definition of what legally constitutes “delivery” may also be up for debate.)

The need for proof might also come into play if a business owner suspects an employee is using the fax machine inappropriately, such as at off hours or to fax a competitor inside information. The activity report could actually be a smoking gun in cases like these. Less dramatically, fax activity reports might be of use for client billing purposes.

You can manually set your fax machine to print every day, once a week and various times in between. You can also print it anytime, on demand. The standard cap is 200 entries, at which point the fax machine will self-generate an activity report, erase its memory, and begin storing data in preparation for resuming printed reports at the programmed intervals.

Honestly, 999 times out of 1,000, those activity reports will just be cluttering up a file in your file cabinet. But if you do happen to need one several months later, you’ll be the office hero.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.