Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
Chattanooga florist Gil Cartwright said when he comes to work in the morning, his facsimile machine is jammed with unsolicited advertisements for discount vacations and various products.
“You want to jerk the thing out of the wall, but I don’t have a choice,” Mr. Cartwright said. “They force it on you, and you have to take it one way or the other.”
A new state law that took effect in July allows the owners of fax machines to limit unwanted faxes sent to sell a product or service without prior permission.
Meanwhile, the federal government is planning a similar program.
The Federal Communications Commission on July 3 proposed a rule under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that would eliminate the transmission of fax advertisements for products or services.
Chris Vest, spokesman for the American Society of Association Executives, said the new federal regulation will place a burden on businesses that rely on faxes to communicate.
“The FCC has overreached to (deal with) public sentiment and Internet spam,” Mr. Vest said.”Do Not Call” registries, offered by Tennessee since 2000 and the Federal Trade Commission since June, stop unwanted telemarketing phone calls to residences. But the state’s “Do Not Fax” program protects both residences and businesses from junk mail transmitted through fax machines.
With the new program, Tennessee is one of nine states to prohibit junk fax transmissions, said Greg Mitchell, spokesman for the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
The recipient of an unsolicited fax must reply to the sender asking to be removed from the company’s fax transmission list, according to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, which administers the program. The service is free.
The “Do Not Fax” program requires senders of unsolicited faxes to include a return address and toll-free fax number.
“This allows consumers to fax a reply back to the companies,” said Mr. Mitchell. “There’s nothing to sign up for.”
If someone continues to receive faxed advertisements after requesting a company stop, the person may file a complaint with the Regulatory $2,000 per page per violation, Mr. Mitchell said.
Doug Heller, senior consumer advocate for the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said people get frustrated when “irrelevant junk” ties up their fax machines.
“These companies are using toner and paper to advertise products. It’s waking people up at night and clogging fax machines,” Mr. Heller said. “It’s unacceptable and against the law.”
Junk mail transmitted through the fax machine has been illegal under federal law since 1991, according to the foundation’s Web site. But officials said the law has never been enforced.
Michelle Huffman, owner of the Cupboard Restaurant on Market Street, said many businesses use fax machines as a marketing tool.
“People have approached me and asked why I don’t fax my menu,” Ms. Huffman said. “We can’t just fax. It’s illegal, and I don’t want to spend the next two years paying it back.”
Mr. Vest said Congress is reversing a policy of allowing faxed advertisements to promote legitimate services.
“They’ve just reversed the course and passed aside rules that had proven effective and judicious for 11 years in a span of 30 days,” he said.
E-mail Kimberly Starks at [email protected]