FCC Amends Fax Rules

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Businesses can continue sending fax advertisements to people with whom they have an established business relationship, with some limitations, the Federal Communications Commission said this week.

The FCC adopted rules to implement the provisions of the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.

Regulations on unsolicited commercial faxes needed to be in place by April 5 under the act. The act amends section 227 of the Communications Act of 1934 relating to unsolicited facsimile ads.

The FCC initially adopted in 2003 a rule requiring businesses to obtain written consent for sending unsolicited fax ads. But companies complained that this approach was too harsh.

Under the new rules, which take effect in July, businesses must obtain the fax number directly from the recipient or ensure that the recipient voluntarily agreed to make the number available for public distribution. They also must provide a definition of an EBR to be used in the context of sending fax ads.

Unsolicited ads that arrive on U.S. fax machines also must clearly tell recipients how they can opt out of future transmissions. Fax advertisers then have 30 days to honor the opt-out requests. Senders must provide "clear and conspicuous notice and contact information" on the first page of a fax telling recipients how to opt out of future transmissions, the FCC said.

The new rules apply to nonprofit trade associations and small businesses as well as larger companies, the agency said.

"The status quo on faxing to people with whom you have an existing business relationship has been maintained," said Joe Sanscrainte, an associate with Bryan Cave LLP, a law firm in New York City.

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