June 28, 2005

US House votes to ease fax advertisement limit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives onTuesday passed a measure easing restrictions on unsolicited, or"junk," faxes after some businesses argued the rules were tooexpensive to follow.

Lawmakers passed by voice vote a bill that maintains anoverall ban on unsolicited faxes but removes a requirement thatsenders must get written consent before faxing people with whomthey already have an established business relationship.

The measure would also require senders to providerecipients a clear, cost-free way to opt out of receivingfaxes.

It further would allow the Federal CommunicationsCommission to limit the duration of an established businessrelationship and let the FCC exempt nonprofit groups from therules.

The FCC initially adopted regulations requiring writtenconsent for sending fax advertisements in 2003. But businesseshave since complained the stricter limits are too costly.

"The cost of complying with the FCC's new rules will beenormous, and it will severely hamper legitimate faxcommunications between businesses and their customers andbetween associations and their members," said Rep. Fred Upton,a Michigan Republican and chairman of the Housetelecommunications subcommittee.

The Senate passed the measure last week and it now goes toPresident Bush for his consideration.

The stricter rule was set take effect on Friday, but theFCC on Monday delayed implementation until Jan. 9, 2006, inpart because of potential action by Congress.

"We'll see if this unleashes a torrent of faxes," saidKenneth DeGraff, a policy analyst for consumer advocacyorganization Consumers Union, which had pushed for the stricterrestrictions.