The Facts About Fax
In light of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposed curtailment of faxing commercial solicitations to consumers and businesses without their written permission, an e-mail I received recently stood out like a sore thumb. Under different circumstances, I would have trashed it without a second thought. Here are the highlights of the e-mail:
Make Your Phones Ring, Increase Your Sales, and Put a Hard Copy of Your Message in Customers [sic] Hands for Just Pennies ...
... Our service can deliver a few to hundreds of thousands of messages overnight or during the business day. The sky is the limit for fast, reliable, inexpensive delivery of your document!
Nothing is wrong with this solicitation—nowhere does it say anything about disregarding do-not-fax requests from customers or blasting messages to people with whom there is no current relationship. On the other hand, you can imagine this company's interest is in wallpapering the country with faxes, and that got me thinking about the FCC's fax restrictions.
Taking its cue from the whip cracking going on at the Federal Trade Commission, the FCC has sharpened its knives to attack unwanted fax communications. The bureaus appear to be closing ranks to seal off any avenue of refuge for companies that continually abuse their rights to market to consumers and businesses.
On its face, the issue of stopping unwanted telemarketing calls, faxes, e-mail and direct mail seems so simple. But the balancing act between consumer and commercial rights in the midst of an economic quagmire is extremely delicate. I'm in no way advocating that the state of the economy be used to handcuff consumer rights. I am suggesting that making companies jump through unnecessary hoops to do business with other companies, just to prove that the government is not blind to consumers' expectations of control over how they are marketed to, can start a domino effect that may be hard to stop once it picks up speed.
Who doesn't recognize that companies will turn to e-mail, direct mail and telemarketing to get written permission to fax? And that the communication spikes in these channels will lead to an outcry against their use? If you have any illusions this is just a fax issue, think again.