FCC’s New Fax Rules Cause Furor, Implementation is Delayed

First it was the telemarketers whose wings were clipped, now in a surprise ruling, the Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on the sending of unsolicited facsimiles.

The FCC has said it made the ruling to stop millions of unwanted faxes, that come at times even after the recipient has been asked to be removed from a fax list. The FCC issued the law on July 3 as an amendment to 1991’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The FCC’s rule will require the marketing and business-to-business communications that many companies rely on to build their clientele. The FCC will require companies to ask permission before faxing “any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person’s prior express invitation or permission.” Firms wishing to send marketing faxes must first get written permission from the recipient, including a signature and verification of what specific fax numbers can receive unsolicited faxes. Senders will have to keep the permission forms on record.

Realty Times is reporting that the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, whose members send 10 million facsimiles a month to real estate brokers and others, will join with the Mortgage Bankers Association and others to try to stop the rule from going into effect as scheduled on Aug. 25.

The group has requested a 180-day “emergency stay” arguing that “Tens of millions of businesses rely on faxes for information.”

The nonprofit sector, which is particularly reliant upon broadcast faxes to reach far-flung membership bases, is up in arms over the FCC’s unexpected ruling.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), a 25,000-member professional association representing those who run nonprofits, joined in requesting the 180-day stay.

In its stay petition to the FCC, ASAE’s attorneys said, “ASAE is filing simultaneously with the Commission a Petition for Emergency Clarification of the unsolicited facsimile advertisement rules as they apply to tax nonprofit organizations and is seeking an interpretation that unsolicited facsimile communications are not prohibited when issued by tax exempt nonprofit organizations in pursuit of their authorized tax exempt nonprofit purposes.”

Update - August 19, 2003: In response to complaints from business groups, the FCC has delayed the implementation of the "junk fax" rule from August 25, 2003 to January 1, 2005.

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