The AVMA has received inquiries from members about a new rule from the Federal Communications Commission that would prohibit the faxing of "unsolicited advertisements."
The rule would ban faxing information or promotional material concerning products, services, and events for which a fee is charged, without the written, signed consent of the person to whom the material is being sent. To view the rule, log on to http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-03-153A1.pdf and scroll to paragraph 185.
Originally, the rule was to take effect Aug. 25 of this year, but on Aug. 18, the FCC extended the effective date until Jan. 1, 2005 after receiving complaints from the business community and associations.
Under the rule, telephone, e-mail, and faxed requests for information do not qualify as signed, written consent. There must be specific signed, written consent to receive solicitations by fax at a designated fax number. The rule is applicable to association members. Individuals and businesses that receive unsolicited faxes have a "private right of action" that allows them to take the faxer to court and be awarded $500 per violation. The FCC has authority to fine faxers up to $11,000 per offense.
Although most provisions were delayed until 2005, one of the two exceptions the FCC has allowed to its rule against unsolicited ad faxes could change sooner. Businesses have been allowed to send ad faxes to recipients with whom they have an "established business relationship." In a Report and Order adopted June 26 that made certain changes to the rules and regulations implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the FCC revised this definition. If the Office of Management and Budget approves the new definition and it is published in the Federal Register, the newly defined exception would impose time limits on the exception.
Some practitioners became aware of the rule when distributors began asking them for permission to continue faxing them their specials and other materials. That prompted some veterinarians to contact the AVMA, asking about the status of the rule and whether it applies to unsolicited faxes from other sources.
The FCC's Aug. 18 stay order suggests the postponement was granted to allow time for compliance with the new regulations. Unless the FCC decides to revise them, they will be implemented. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to lobby the FCC and Capitol Hill against the rule, which it sees as unreasonable and creating an unnecessary paperwork burden. Debate is also expected from the American Society of Association Executives and others. For more information, visit www.uschamber.com/government/issues/technology/fcc_030819.htm.