FCC delays new advertising reg until 2005

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has delayed until Jan. 1, 2005, the start of a new rule governing to whom companies, including those in the HME industry, can fax advertising material.

Until Jan. 1, 2005, businesses can continue to fax unsolicited advertising material to individuals and companies with whom they have existing business relationships. After Jan. 1, 2005, faxers will have to receive expressed written permission. Faxers must still receive written permission from companies with whom they have not done business.

The new rule updates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 25. The FCC delayed the start after receiving numerous calls from companies, complaining they didn’t have time to obtain all the necessary written consent.

The updated fax rule, which is part of the same FCC action that in June created the national do-not-call registry, is an attempt to protect individuals and companies from unwanted telemarketing and solicitation.

“What just blows my mind is where are they with the emails?” said Brenda Pelletier, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers, who prior to the delay had begun collecting the necessary consent from PAMS members. “I don’t get half as many fax advertisements as emails popping up.”

Pelletier plans to continue collecting consent forms from PAMS members.

Pelletier’s not the only one scratching her head over the FCC’s focus on faxes rather than emails. But there is a simple reason for that, said FCC spokesperson Rosemary Kimball: the Internet is unregulated. To restrict email would require an act of Congress.

To avoid the impending fax requirement, Kimball said, she wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more companies exchange the fax machine for email.

Others agree.

“I think faxes will become obsolete,” said one industry watcher. “I don’t even see many broadcast faxes being used any more, most are via email. I think in the end, you’ll even see invoices emailed to people. Email is free and easy. You do it right at your computer. You can fax at your computer, but it is not as easy.