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WASHINGTON -- The Federal Communications Commission said yesterday that it will delay for 16 months imposing new rules to cut down on the flow of unsolicited "junk" faxes, so businesses and organizations can have more time to comply with the changes.
The FCC's rule change, adopted in late June, would have required companies and organizations to get written permission before sending unsolicited commercial faxes, even if the sender had an existing business relationship with the recipient.
The rule was supposed to go into effect Aug. 25, but after criticism from business groups and nonprofit organizations about the potentially harmful effects of the regulation and the difficulty of complying so quickly, the FCC delayed enforcing the provision until Jan. 1, 2005.
"We completely understand the challenges that individuals and corporations are facing, and we want them to comply with the law, and that's why we gave this extension," said K. Dane Snowden, chief of the FCC's bureau of consumer and governmental affairs.
While supporters of stricter regulations point to millions of unsolicited faxes tying up phone lines each day, some business and nonprofit groups say the rule change would interrupt business-to-business communication as well as keep important information from customers and group members.
"Several associations in other industries also made similar requests to stay the new fax rule on behalf of their own members," stated a release by the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute. "It?s clear that this is a widespread problem for businesses in general. FMI will continue to press the point that an established business relationship should provide complete exemption from this requirement."
Under guidelines established by the FCC in 1992, unsolicited faxed advertisements could be sent if companies or organizations had a previous business relationship with the recipient. The new FCC provisions attempted to tighten these rules by eliminating this exception and including a requirement that written permission must be obtained.
The FCC said it is important to limit unwanted faxes because, unlike conventional telephone calls, faxes are paid for by the recipient.
The new faxing rules received little attention when introduced June 26, as they came out the same day the FCC announced creation of the do-not-call registry, a system that lets people sign up to block telemarketing phone calls. More than 32 million households have signed up for the list so far. The FCC said the decision to delay the fax provision does not affect the Oct. 1 effective date of the do-not-call list.