Not All Faxes Are Junk

In passing the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 on Wednesday, June 29, Congress acted to stop junk faxes without preventing small businesses from communicating with customers they have established relationships with. If President Bush signs the bill, only customers who have given prior written consent will receive faxes.

The legislation overturns broad regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by allowing unsolicited faxes to be sent to customers with whom a company has an established business relationship providing each fax contains a conspicuous notice on the first page notifying the recipient may request not to receive such unsolicited faxes in the future. In addition, businesses must obtain fax numbers directly from the recipient or a published source (directory, advertisement or Internet site) rather than buying lists thus preventing mass marketing by third parties. The legislation prohibits sending unsolicited faxes to anyone who has requested not to receive them.

“The passage of the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 by both the U.S. House and Senate is good for small businesses and their customers,” says Chief Council for Advocacy Thomas M. Sullivan. “Junk faxes remain illegal, but real estate agents can still fax listings based on a telephone request, jobbers can fax updated price lists to stores and caterers can fax menus to brides-to-be. It’s bipartisan win-win legislation that’s good for all concerned.”

The Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent voice for small business within the federal government. In May 2004, Advocacy identified the FCC regulations as overly burdensome on small businesses and in need of reform in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The letter noted that the rule “places a substantial burden on manufacturers and other businesses by compelling them to obtain the signed written consent of each recipient before any commercial fax may be sent” and the rule should be modified “to continue the established business relationship exemption.”

The FCC regulations were also opposed by over 600 businesses and trade associations. The “Fax Ban Coalition” was organized to oppose and reverse the FCC’s regulations.

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