FCC Grants Another Fax-Rule Extension

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The Federal Communications Commission pushed back the effective date of its new fax rule that will require commercial faxers to get written permission from consumers to June 30, 2005, the FCC said Friday.

The delay represents the second time the FCC has rescheduled the rule's implementation. The FCC issued the rule, along with other changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, on July 3, 2003, but in August 2003 it delayed implementation to Jan. 1, 2005, in response to industry concerns.

Commercial faxers currently need only an existing business relationship with a consumer to send a fax. Faxers complained that requiring written permission from consumers would be an administrative burden, hurting nonprofit organizations that use faxes to communicate with members as well as small businesses such as real estate and insurance agents.

In July, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4600, the Junk Fax Prevention Act, which would overturn the written-permission rule. The Senate version, S. 2603, is out of committee but has not received a vote by the full Senate.

"In light of recent action by the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the TCPA and similar proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate, we believe the public interest would best be served by delaying the effective date of the written-consent requirement for six months to allow Congress to act," the FCC said in its written order for the delay. "Should Congress not act in this regard, a further extension will provide the commission requisite time to address the petitions for reconsideration filed on these issues."

The existing business relationship standard will remain in place until the issue is resolved or the June 30, 2005, deadline is reached, the FCC said. The FCC issued the delay in response to a petition by the Fax Ban Coalition, which represents industries that include financial, real estate, distributing, travel, medical and publishing.

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