The Better Business Bureau reminds businesses that use the fax machine to advertise to check their compliance with new federal commercial fax rules, some of which took effect August 1, 2006.
In general, it is unlawful to send unsolicited fax advertisements (using a fax machine, computer or other device) to any business or place of residence without the recipient’s prior express permission (received in writing or orally). Specifically, a business is permitted to send unsolicited fax ads only if (1) it has an established business relationship with the recipient, who voluntarily provided their fax number and (2) the first page of the fax transmission contains information on how recipients can “opt out” of future unsolicited fax ads.
An established business relationship means the relationship was formed by a voluntary two-way communication between the recipient and sender on the basis of a purchase, transaction, inquiry or application regarding products or services offered by the sender. The relationship has to be one that was not previously terminated by either party.
The opt-out notice must appear on the first page of the fax transmission (at either the top or bottom), present “clear and conspicuous” information on how to opt out of future faxed ads, and provide a cost-free opt-out mechanism that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Cost-free mechanisms can include a toll-free telephone or fax number, e-mail address, Web site, or a telephone or fax number that is local for the recipient.
The opt-out notice must state that the recipient can request that the sender not send any future faxes and that failure to comply with the request within 30 days is unlawful. In addition to the opt-out notice, every unsolicited fax must include the date and time of transmission and the registered name and phone number of the company sending the fax.
Be aware that in-state commercial faxes are still governed by state statutes, many of which do not exempt faxes sent to recipients who have an existing business relationship with the sender. Make sure your business is adhering to any pertinent state rules.
BBBs remind businesses who send fax ads to make sure fax and telephone opt-out lines are properly staffed and to honor opt-out requests within the 30-day window. More detailed information on commercial fax requirements is available on the Direct Marketing Association’s Web site (www.the-dma.org).